News for all writers on how to write? Previously I have relied on what I was taught by teachers, with the aid of raps on the knuckles with a ruler in earlier years. Now we have the advantage of the new Rees-Mogg Style Guide which recommends the use of Esq. which needs a full stop but Miss and Ms doesn’t. He declines to advise on how the write the plural of Ms. (I put the stop here as it is the end of a sentence.)
I am pleased to learn that certain words are unacceptable and occasion disappointment; they are deemed no longer fit for purpose. The Right Honourable Jacob Rees-Mogg M.P. would be most upset by that sentence because it contains thirteen words he wishes to ban. We should be grateful to Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons also, by self-appointment, Leader of the Comma Man. He cannot be addressed as Esq., one cannot be both Right Honourable and Esquire.
Before Rees-Mogg, I took advice from the Guardian book of English Language who tell how to write ‘lumpenproletariat’ and to use ‘girlie’ as a noun but ‘girly’ as an adjective; the guide declines to say whether such words are politically correct or not. Then there is help from Fowler’s Modern English Usage; three columns on the ‘questionable constructions’ using the word ‘like’ and that ‘Headmaster’ is a single word. There are seven pages on the use of the hyphen but we are still left with the clumsiness of when a lay-preacher becomes an ex-lay-preacher.
Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, a great American guide advises us to avoid using, or rather not using, understood verbs; ‘Polly loves cake more than me’ or is it ‘Polly loves cake more than she loves me.’ They explain the correct use of ‘nauseous’ and ‘nauseated’ and describe ‘nice’ as a shaggy, all-purpose word to be used sparingly.
Then there is New Hart’s Rules, The Oxford Guide to Style which has five pages on the use of the comma, and I still can’t do it right.
Use Imperial measures, says Rees-Mogg. Gone now, are the millimetres, metres and kilometres, we are back to Poles, Chains, Furlongs and Leagues. When it comes to medicine, we will have to measure in grains again. How much is a grain? as much as a grain of wheat, silly. How accurate do you want to be? Ten grains, is that ten small, dry, shrivelled-up grains or fat, swollen, wet grains? How many grains in a pound (weight)? Seven thousand for a pound avoirdupois but only 5670 for a pound Troy. I am not sure about the Apothecaries’ weight system, they dealt in scruples (20 grains) and nothing as heavy as a pound. A grain is officially defined as 64.79891 mg. I had to learn this a medical school as in the early 60’s we were moving from the apothecary’s to the metric system. No more 5 grain aspirin tablets, we rounded it down to 300mg.
I recall from my days in the Young Farmers’ Club that the weight of a pig is given in ‘score’. One score is 20 pounds avoirdupois. When it comes to age, I have exceeded three score and ten (score, not scores.)
How large is your house? You may be able to answer in square metres but now it must be Imperial. How many Perches? Sounds fishy to me but one perch is 30.25 square yards, so conversion is easy. I filled up my car with fuel this morning, it took a Bushel or 4 Pecks or 8 Gallons or 36 Litres).
Perhaps the new Ress-Mogg guide will demand that book and chapter titles are written in a former style, e.g. Chapter XII – In which our Hero proposes to the Lady of the Manor and is rebuffed then goes to seek his fortune in foreign lands.
The fullstop, full stop, full-stop or period.
The Right Honourable Jacob Rees-Mogg M.P. (include the . after M. and P.) did not mention numerals. These new-fangled Arabic numerals are probably an unnecessary development for him and should be replaced by the classic Roman style; VII times IX equals LXIII, easy isn’t it. Please write your date of birth here in Roman Numerals……..
Ress-Mogg M.P. must be pleased about the latest democratic exercise where only the paid-up members of the Tory Party got to vote for the leader of the whole country. The system is just like early democracy in ancient Greece. The important people got to vote on the new leader. Slaves, serfs, women, tradesmen, professionals, artists and craftsmen did not have a say. Same with the Romans, only the Praetorian Guards were permitted to vote; that’s how they got Nero – plus ça change.