Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Devils Born To Be Wild

On ABC News Online this morning (Wednesday 27 November 2013):

"Devils Born To Be Wild: Captive-bred Tasmanian devils are thriving on their new island home, breeding and interacting with tourists."

Really? Breeding with the tourists? Who'd a thunk it? Gives a whole new meaning to animal husbandry, I can tell you that.

I used to make a joke about a colleague (and friend) of mine, who had a desk with something special. He had the usual array of little containers we all have, to hold pens, and paper clips, and so on, but he also had an extra one - a punctuation container, filled to the brim with commas, semi-colons, full stops and an em-dash or two. He would write a letter (by hand) with perfectly conventional addressing, lead-in and salutation, but the body text was stream of consciousness with irregular capitalisation. He would then revert to convention for the sign off. To complete the task he would dip into his punctuation container and apply an even (and random) sprinkling of punctuation.

Of course he didn't really do this, but looking at the result you would be forgiven for thinking that my little joke was no joke at all.

I am reminded of the book 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' by Lynne Truss, a how-to manual for punctuation. Truss hosted a BBC Radio 4 program on punctuation before publishing that book, so she's well positioned to write about the topic. Using punctuation correctly shouldn't be hard, but so many people make it seem so that I am forced to conclude that, in fact, it is hard.

Nevertheless, you don't expect sloppiness from the ABC: " ... new island home, breeding, and interacting with tourists ..." is hardly physics; it just takes a little care.

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