Tuesday, October 7, 2003
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Style

A Diane Greco special: Louis Menand, writing in The New Yorker, on the stylistics of end matter. Menand's prose is nicely spiced, and Diane writes, "Louis Menand, I adore you."

Whatever you do, incidentally, do not look for guidance in the pages of The New Yorker , where house style requires quotation marks for book titles and the insertion of commas in places where other periodicals don’t even have places.

And Menand makes an important point about the experience of using complex software.

When, in the old days, you hit the wrong key on your typewriter, you got one wrong character. Strike the wrong keys in Word and you are suddenly writing in Norwegian Bokmal ( Bokmal ?).

This isn't conventional Word-bashing; it's the nature of powerful tools. The more we can do, the more likely that one ill-advised button will change the character set to Hittite, or break all your permalinks. People say, "there are too many features in Word", but of course everyone uses different parts of the program; the Norwegians won't thank you for making it harder to use Bokmal.

Of course, Menand enjoys Word-bashing too -- it's too much fun to pass up entirely.

Few features of Word can be responsible for more user meltdowns than Footnote and Endnote (which is saying a lot in the case of a program whose Thesaurus treats “information” as “in formation,” offering “in order” and “in sequence” as possible synonyms, and whose spellcheck suggests that when you typed the unrecognized “decorums” you might have meant “deco rums”). To begin with, the designers of Word apparently believe that the conventional method of endnote numbering is with lowercase Roman numerals -- i, ii, iii, etc. When was the last time you read anything that adhered to this style? It would lead to sentences like:

In the Gramscian paradigm, the "intellectual”lxxxvii is, by definition, always already a liminal status.lxxxviii .