Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Gig, Old Books

So what's a fellow to do on Day One of his work in the Gig Economy? Unpack reference books from the old gig.
That work, which I did first thing yesterday morning, may be akin to a soldier checking, oiling and testing his weapon. I felt a granite sureness in pulling out Webster's Unabridged, The Chicago Manual of Style, Follett, Fowler, Strunk and White and the AP Stylebook. Weapons and ammo. Check. Ready to go to battle.
I mentioned this in a Tweet and got an interesting response from an old colleague, an award-winning wordsmith in his publishing days.
Strunk and White? Are you kidding? The days of having 30 minute arguments of serial commas and whether one means anticipation or simple expectation are days of yore, old friend.
I understand where he's coming from, in an era of 140-word Tweets and IM slang that's, OMG, 2die4.But sunshine peeks through the clouds. His response coincided with a request from a colleague at Blanc & Otus. A client wanted to resolve an internal discussion about how to handle compound modifiers. He was wondering whether their copy was too hyphen-happy.
There, in the pages of those great language books, was the guidance we so often have trouble finding these days: Use the hyphen to avoid confusion. "Small-business owners" means something different than "small business owners."
So people still care. Are these people graying around the temples, raised at a time when we read books not screens, tapped typewriters not keyboards? Perhaps. But at the agency I got urgent questions from twenty-somethings (note the hyphen) about serial commas, about punctuation, about style. It matters.
People, like nature, abhor a vacuum.While the language evolves as it should, business communications, done well, will always adhere to rules.

 

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