Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Small Thing

I would not have had to waste my time reading this headline in today's Sunday Age several times, if a sub-editor had been employed to put a comma after 'go'. If that tiny bit of punctuation had been added, the heading's meaning would have been clear at once.

8 comments:

  1. Discs to go; in search ... hmmm, not liking, not wanting, as a toddler child of mine used to say when presented with any food except pesto.

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  2. Ha, yes, it took me a while as well! (By the way, I spent 4 years studying ambiguity for my PhD, so I'm pleased to find your new blog.)

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  3. So it's Dr Gadjo - what aspect of ambiguity?

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  4. Yes, it is technically 'Dr Gadjo' :-) It was ambiguity in software requiremnets documents, to be precise, but while the software part ensured that I had a chance of getting funded, in the event I kept it quite theoretical and spent more time than I should studying linguistics. The ambiguity I used as my test case was coordination ambiguity, e.g. in 'Old boots and shoes' and 'Old boots and apples' it is likely in the first case that 'Old' applies to both 'boots' and 'shoes' but in the second case only to 'boots'. The twist of the thesis was to take a wholly subjective approach and to try to predict whether readers would actually be aware of the ambiguities or not. (Are you bored yet?)

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  5. Curiously, I was just getting interested. My favourite ambiguity arises from commas missing before because eg "I knew she'd been crying because her face was red and ugly" as opposed to "I knew she'd been crying, because her face was red and ugly"

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  6. Yes, I like them too. I'm in the happy position of doing quite a lot of proof-reading in my current job - though as you've seen I tend to take a rest from it in my spare time when writing comments on blogs ;-) - and I'm frequently rearranging people's commas to mark the differences between defining and non-defining clauses.

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  7. '...defining and non-defining clauses' - and he said he wasn't a trained grammarian. Hmmm

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