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May 2014
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July 2014

Apology to commenters

Dear friends: Because of the high volume of spam comments I get, I hold all comments for approval. TypePad is supposed to send me an e-mail whenever someone comments, to alert me to either publish the comment or mark it as spam. For some reason, I’ve been missing those e-mails, at least until one finally came through today. When I clicked through to approve the comment, I discovered several others awaiting approval, some for several weeks or longer. So if you left a comment that sat in limbo for longer than 24 hours (much longer in many cases), please accept my apology.


The man who taught me

Tonight I had a pleasant surprise. While attending a fund-raiser for the New Orleans St. Vincent dePaul Society, I ran into my old English teacher from high school, Father J. Godden Menard, C.M. My high school was a minor seminary with a tiny student body, fewer than 50 every year I was there. Yet I received an extraordinary education in writing, with Fr. Menard as a teacher all four years. In my freshman year, we were taught everything we would ever need to know about grammar. The other three years, we just learned how to write. For example, we covered parallel construction in my sophomore year. We were constantly writing short essays. By necessity, we learned how to structure paragraphs. Today, I still apply the lessons I learned from Fr. Menard.

Here is a picture of our little reunion. Thank you, Father Menard.

Fr Menard and Ray


An objective test of your writing’s readability

Over at Above the Law, Mark Herrmann reminds us that Word can give you statistics about the readability of your writing every time you run the spell-and-grammar checker. You just need to enable the feature, which is easy if you follow these instructions. I had that feature enabled on my old Windows XP machine, but had not thought of it since upgrading to Windows 7. That oversight has now been cured. (Oops, I meant to say I have cured that oversight.) I am not a slave of the numbers, but it does no harm to have an e-editor provide an objective assessment of my writing.


A painstaking etymology

I pronounce painstaking like “pain staking.” But maybe I should pronounce it like “pains taking.” The reason, as Stan points out at Sentence First, is that the word refers to taking pains to do something. According to OED, the British pronounce the s like a z, while Americans pronounce it like an s.

How do you pronounce painstaking? Stan is taking a poll on that subject, so please consider jumping over to Sentence First to help him out.