Sunday, June 10, 2007

Blogging: So it's come to this.

People keep telling me I should blog. The first few to tell me this got slapped. But then I looked up the word "blog" and, well, let's just say shame on me.

I've resisted blogging because (typical writer's whine) I haven't known what to say. Sure, I could model mine after the "Be an expert in your field and offer brilliant insights not found anywhere else" blogs. I'd love to do that. But in my case that would be akin to Woody Allen blogging about fatherhood. Serious credential problems.

I could also model mine on the "OMG did u SEE american idle last night?!?!?!?" blogs. But I'm far too old to start huffing paint thinner (again).

So, for lack of something to say that's interesting and neither incriminating nor actionable, I've been mum. But then it occurred to me, "Hey! My readers have interesting stuff to say! Why not pilfer that?"

The people who read my newspaper columns and my book sometimes drop me a line to ask questions or share insights or rants. These notes are often interesting and highly educational. And when they're not, they're even more fun. (For example, I'm already anticipating one attacking the first sentence of this paragraph for saying that mulitple people drop me "a" line. Let me nip that in the bud: I don't have a good reason other than "people drop me lines" sounds ridiculous.)

Then a funny thing happened on my way to blatant exploitation of my readers: I realized I really could blog about other stuff -- everything from grammar to my cat Tibor to my cat Maddie to my cat Smudge or even my cat Susie! (I'm renaissance-y like that.) The whole blogging world is my oyster. So to kick us off, here's an e-mail I got recently from a reader, followed by my reply. I look forward to hearing you tell me I'm an idiot.

June: I often see big headlines in sale papers proclaiming "SAVE 50% OFF". Or even worse, sometimes it's "SAVE 50% OFF ON EVERYTHING IN THE STORE". This doesn't seem right. Would it be more correct to simply say either "SAVE 50%" or "50% OFF"? Just one of those little things that bugs me. Thanks for your
attention. -- M.D.

* * * *

Hi, M.D. Thanks for the note.

You wrote, "... wouldn't it be more correct to simply say ..." And therein you've touched on the real issue.

Would it be BETTER to opt for your wording? Absolutely. But correctness is a lot more elusive. For one thing, there's the question of idiom - which renders even ungrammatical constructions grammatical. Preposition issues often fall into this category.

From "The Careful Writer": "Is it dissimilar 'from' or dissimilar to'? Is it enjoin 'to,' 'from,' 'against,' or what? The proper preposition is a matter of idiom, and idioms, if they do not come 'naturally' must be either learned or looked up."

Add to that the fact that, there really is no place to look most stuff like this up. And even if there was, it would likely be some expert's best guess and not anything that qualifies as an official determination of "right" or "wrong."

Welcome to my nightmare.

For my money, "save 50% off" sounds acceptable. "Save 50% off on ..." well, that's pretty goofy -- goofy enough that I might venture to say it really is wrong. But it's possible I could be wrong. So I tread with caution.

Either way, these advertisers' choice of words could definitely be better.

Hope that big mess is at least partly as helpful as it is messy.

- June

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