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Punctuation and Grammar: LOL

One of the great pleasures of Twitter is @FakeAPStylebook, which sends up the Associated Press Stylebook with hilariously terrible writing tips. Now the masterminds behind the tweets, known as The Bureau Chiefs, have a whole book of phony style advice: Write More Good. Here we present an excerpt adapted from their chapter on punctuation and grammar. Proceed with caution.

English has undergone rapid changes in its history, much like the hyperevolution found on the planet Genesis in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

As the evolution of life on the planet accelerated after the triggering of the Genesis device, so have the rules of grammar and punctuation been buffeted by technological forces like text messaging, l33t speak, and the steady replacement of journalists by terrifying robots.

Truly, we live in a frightening time, when the ancient skill of diagramming a sentence may fade into obscurity as the human race evolves teeny tiny fingers attached to their main fingers in order to better mash cell-phone buttons. Will grammar and punctuation remain constant in this strange new world? Likely not, but we will take a stand and codify the best punctuation and grammar rules in order to preserve English as we know it in a slab of amber, so that future generations will know to use quotation marks rather than italics.

(Meanwhile, by the time you buy this book, we'll probably have made fifteen arbitrary changes that can and will get you fired if you fail to use them. So basically, you can pretty much go nuts and ignore everything you're about to read. In fact, why not just rip these pages out of the book and burn them? Nothing means anything any longer. Oh God.)

The Basics

You are a wordsmith, and your art is a complex one that requires patience, study, and the correct ingredients. Start with some high-quality wrought iron. The best writers also have several chisels and hammers. If you don't have your own anvil, your local university's English department might have some available for rent, since nobody majors in English anymore. Building a forge in your backyard takes a certain level of commitment, but do you want to be a better writer or not?

Your words must be heated to at least five hundred degrees before you strike them firmly with a hammer, forming them into a coherent sentence. Good writers must have phenomenal upper-body strength; John Updike had nineteen-inch biceps (unflexed), and James Frey's arms have been used in the "after" picture in a Charles Atlas advertisement.

Now grab that raw piece of wrought-iron news with your editing tongs and dip them where? In water? Oh, no, my friend. In a cooling liquid bath we like to call punctuation and grammar.

Continue to shape your paragraph on your anvil. When finished, apply a nice finish to your prose using a wire brush. Bluing is optional but can be used to excess. ( Just look at Cormac "Ol' Blue Hands" McCarthy.) Nail your prose to the outside of your house to ward off fairies, or carefully pack it in a box of straw to send to your agent.

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The passive voice should be avoided by you.

It is all right to occasionally end a sentence with a preposition. However, you never end a sentence with a proposition: The mayor's statement was something the entire council could agree with, but would you like to go out to dinner with me tonight?

 "Between" is used to refer to two items, "among" for three to ninety-nine, "centimong" for one hundred or more.

When joining together double, triple, quadruple, or quintuple prefixes, always use a hyphen: sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-paragraph; non-non-non-heinous

If a sentence is too complex and no amount of punctuation will clarify things, it is sometimes best to simply start from scratch. "That that is is; that that is not is not" can be rewritten as How do I know that the color blue to you is the color blue to me, man? Whoa.

Avoid overuse of exclamation points. Only use them in direct quotations or in articles about advertisers' really, really good appliance sales.

Proper capitalization is key. The poet E. E. Cummings was just covering up for a severe learning disability.

The first official Subject-Verb Agreement was signed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1896. The present perfect tense is always formed with "have," "has," and a nice big cup of coffee. Future perfect tense substitutes a nice big cup of digital space coffee.

The irony mark is a nonstandard punctuation symbol that resembles a backward question mark and is intended to help the reader recognize when irony is being employed. Ironically, it is only employed by writers who make their irony so obvious that a mark isn't needed in the first place or by writers who aren't quite clear on the concept of irony.


Excerpted from Write More Good by The Bureau Chiefs © 2011 The Bureau Chiefs LLC. Reprinted by permission of Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.


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