Thursday, January 20, 2011

Word Nerditry

Last week Slate published a piece entitled "Space Invaders: why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period." As a lifetime one-spacer - although forced by professional necessity to alter my habits in recent years - I highly approve. And clearly I'm not the only one at the State Department who shares this view, as evinced by the raging (and entertaining) debate on the subject on the Sounding Board (State only).

For those of you not blessed with access to the State intranet, I have provided a link to the thread's best reference, a delightful article by former SecState Dean Acheson on the intricacies of regulating diplomatic prose. An excerpt:

We won a few opening and easy victories over phrases with no solid support — villainous expressions like “as regards to,” “acknowledging yours of,” “regretting our delay in,” and so on. Then came our first major attack on a departmental favorite. The target was the use of the verb “to feel” to describe the Department’s cogitating and deciding process. “The Department feels that to adopt the course you urge would not,” et cetera, et cetera. The Department could, I insisted, decide, agree, disagree, approve, disapprove, conclude, and on rare occasions, and vicariously, think, but never feel. It had no feelings. It was incapable of feeling. So the ukase was issued that departmental feeling was out.

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