Friday, March 21, 2008

Of dots and curls - Part 1

Once upon a time, in a hut far into the woods, there lived a little boy called Comma. He had a curl in his cap, a spring in his step and a lot of envy for his two elder brothers. The eldest brother was called Period. He was ponderous and slow, and hated it when Comma ran in circles around him. Comma was jealous that Period always got the final word in any matter. And then, there was the middle brother, Semicolon. Since he hardly ever spoke unless spoken to, Semicolon gave out an air of profound thoughtfulness wherever he went. And that is what made Comma look upon Semicolon with a bit of awe. "Wow", he would tell himself. "He speaks rarely, but when he does, he can snap stuff into two. Without killing them off like Period does."

So what was it, actually, that Period did that annoyed Comma so? It was the fact that whenever Period said "Hey, here I come", things would stop. Immediately. People would have to begin afresh. Pick themselves up, don an upper case and continue. This was totally against Comma's firmly held belief - never make people change their cases unless they really really want to. Lower cases were lighter to lug around, and merged well with others. Upper cases? Well, now they were a different ballgame altogether - they towered over others, gave others an inferiority complex, and even sprouted shoots and leaves just for effect. No, upper cases were definitely not on the list of Comma's favourite things. The last time an upper case had stood next to Comma in the queue, it looked down its nose at Comma, sniggered, and said, "I represent Proper Noun".



geekboy said...

This is funny & original. I liked it. :)

Rashmi said...

loved your write-up..heady mix of innovative and informative writing!!

anandi said...

that's great writing!!
hey, could you help me with some good books on technical writing. have just enrolled for a 3 month programme on tw...thought u were the best person to ask..


Anindita said...

To Rashmi
Thanks :)

To Anandi
Good books on technical writing. Hmm. I have not really come across any that covers the entire gamut of technical writing, but the following list, which I've personally found to be excellent, should help you get started.

(1) The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
(2) Read me First! by the Sun Publications department. An online version is at as the Open Solaris Style Guide (it takes a while to load).
(3) The Oxford Dictionary (if your target readership speaks English English) or the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, or both :)
(4) The Chicago Manual of Style
(5) Peter Grainge's website (
(6) Modern English Usage by Fowler (there's a 3rd edition but I prefer the 2nd edition)

You may also want to read up on topic-based writing because the current trend is to move away from chapter-based writing, but I am yet to come across a neat clutter-free book or website for this.

Datta Ankushe said...

Hi Anindita !

It is really interesting and informative write up. I've just started reading your blog, and I liked your writing style. This blog will be very helpful for me in future. Thanks! :)