The snakes are now out of hibernation and back in their cages. Another of the baby corn snakes didn’t make it, so we’re down to one, which at least ate a few times before we cooled it down. Lilith was very happy to see us again (see previous entry); the gopher snakes were more phlegmatic. Looks like Trouser is already quite active; Pretzel will no doubt be pounced on shortly.
Today I finally managed to write a 2,400-word draft of an article on raising baby garter snakes, which if all goes well will end up in The Garter Snake, the EGSA’s newsletter.
It’s been a while since I’ve written something for print rather than the web. In fact, it’s been nearly three years since I wrote anything other than a book review for the reptile hobby press. It felt good. Writing was comfortable: I had no trouble getting back into the zone and maintaining my focus.
Despite the total lack of pay, I don’t mind writing these articles: I adopt a fairly informal, conversational tone, compared to the stilted, ersatz-scientific discourse many hobbyists adopt. That may have something to do with my writing skills (ahem), but it reflects the fact that I’m not trying to be professional. I’m just sharing knowledge, not trying to impress.
Interesting article by Bruce Byfield about prescriptivism and grammar (via Languagehat). The author goes after the notion of learning rote rules: they were arbitrarily imposed in the first place, resist the natural change that language undergoes over time, and get in the way of good writing.
My concern is that the prescriptivism he describes — whether it’s “User’s Guide,” “Users’ Guide” or “Users Guide”, for example, or whether the singular they or prepositions at the end of sentences may be used — is that it’s at a different level than where many discussions of grammar take place. This is grammarianism of a professional sort, where tech writers try to reconcile different style guides, determine house rules, and enforce consistent usage. It’s utterly familiar to me, because it was relevant to my last two jobs, but it’s utterly foreign to anyone not employed in the writing business.
Grammar in the everyday sense means getting people to straighten out their homonyms (it’s/its, their/they’re/there, etc.) and punctuate properly, so that people can understand what the hell it is they’re trying to say. I’m more concerned about issues of basic grammar — or rather, literacy — than I am about issues of style: the former needs to be taught; the latter is a subject of endless debate and revision. It’s the difference between high-school history, where the basic material is laid down, and graduate seminars, where that basic material is subject to constant challenge and reinterpretation.
Update 11:17 PM: As it turns out, the page I originally linked to plagiarized the article and has since taken it down; I’ve changed the link to reflect the original source and author. See Languagehat’s comments for details.