Tag Archives: style guide

Time to Think

It’s Wednesday again, and another day off. I have, as usual, a packed schedule and list of jobs to do. I am going to enjoy ignoring them all. It’s what I do best. If you have  a talent you should nurture it. If I had my life again I might try to nurture a talent other than procrastination, but for the moment that is what I will work on.

It’s an intriguing subject. If you could have your life over again, would you, and what would you do do differently?

I will have to make one obviously impossible assumption here – that I could go back to being a baby again. If I just restarted without knowing anything of my past life the chances are that I would do nothing differently, be directed by random chance and, eventually, end up writing a blog post about how it could all have been different.

That would make a bleak book wouldn’t it? A man who gets a second chance wastes it in the same way he wasted his first life…

(I’ve just been reading a style guide (by accident rather than because I meant to) and now feel guilty that my ellipsis has not been preceded by a space, does not have a space between each dot, and lacks a space after it.) I didn’t even know that there was a style guide for an ellipsis. Or there were British and American styles of punctuating when using brackets. I just slap the punctuation where the cursor happens to be when I press the key. Life is too short to worry about dots.

Alternatively, you end up with a story about a man who is reborn knowing all his previous mistakes and trying to correct them. That would probably be even worse. Can you imagine being  eight years old, for instance, and thinking “I must write to T S Eliot and Siegfried Sassoon to gather quotes for the book I intend writing in twenty years time.”

It would be a strange sort of life.

There would also be the problem that I would have to be in Preston in 1980 to meet Julia, and the worry that she wouldn’t like the new me.

That would be a good story – it has all the makings of a top class rom-com  and has fame and fortune written all over it. Now all I need to do is go back in time and remake myself as a Richard Curtis clone. I was tempted to use the new style ellipsis at the end there, but I resisted.

Always Something New to Learn

I have always been of the opinion that it should be possible to refer to a decade – 1960s or ’60s for instance – without the use of an apostrophe between the number and the s. It is something that seems to have crept in over the years and I notice that spellcheckers sometimes pick out the non-apostrophe version as incorrect.

The shop owner always uses 1960’s and I have always written it 1960s, assuming that I am once again out of step with modern thinking. However, I’m just finishing an article and I thought I’d better check a few things. As it’s for a numismatic journal I downloaded the Guidelines for the British Numismatic Society. I was happy to find that they say “The apostrophe is not used in dates or in the plural of abbreviations ‘the 1960s’, rather than ‘the 1960’s’.”

I didn’t really learn this, I suppose, as I already knew it, but it’s nice to confirm it. It also reminds me, when looking into the background, that I have grown sloppy at the other end as I always forget to add the  apostrophe at the beginning of the shortened form – ’60s. All this is, of course, just a prelude to the subject of possessives. How about ’60’s music? I thought about putting that in quotes, but I fear my head might explode. You can see why style guides advocate recasting sentences to avoid situations of confusion. So, “music of the 1960s” it is then. I often do that when working round constructions I’m not confident with, and am happy to see that serious style guides suggest it.