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Summertime and the living is easy. Too easy. How tempting is it to kick back and let our machines do our proofreading? A fabulous Mental Floss t-shirt sparked memories of Jillian Madison's classic Damn You, Autocorrect! and a meditation on the importance of proofreading.

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A recent Wall Street Journal article called out bad grammar in the workplace as a serious issue. John Coates's recent book, The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, on the neurobiology of risk taking in business calls out our hormones as an issue. Coates deals with very high flyers indeed, having been a derivatives trader on Wall Street and now a Cambridge University neuroscientist. The subject is a bit bigger than grammar, and his conclusions about how understanding our neurobologically wired risk-taking behavior can lead to very great rewards are fascinating. But is the risk of being misunderstood because of bad grammar one worth taking? Probably not!

 

 

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We've got a striking juxtaposition this week, between M. Keith Chen's Yale paper on how the strong future tense of English makes the future seem far away and us less prepared for it, and John Brockman's fascinating compilation of essays This Will Make You Smarter. Does English syntax leave us fat, broke, and smoking, as Vice's Motherboard article on Chen puts it? We better read Brockman!

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I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did, a new title from lawyer Lori Andrews, looks at what we give away when we cavort in social media cyberspace--mainly, privacy. The title is made of two independent clauses joined with a conjunction, and some grammar fiends would insist on a comma after the "ARE." Why do commas matter? And what does this have to do with baby seals?

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Bruce Springsteen's hotly awaited new single hit the internet January 19. His (oft-obsessive) fans quickly analyzed the lyrics, seeking even the most minute shades of meaning--no literary critic could be more attentive, it seems, than Bruce's legion of fans. And they found . . . a big goof? What did Bruce get wrong--or right? And what's the deal with calvary and cavalry, anyway?

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Downton Abbey, the latest class-based British drama from Masterpiece Theatre to seize American Anglophiles by the throat, is just entering its second season. A spectacular illustrated book on the world of the series reveals secret history, production details, and fresh character insights and backgrounds, but what about the language? What is it that makes British English so delicious--and foreign--to American ears?

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From e.g. and i.e. to metonymy and synecdoche, Greek and Latin have a tenacious hold on our language. Ever-evolving English capaciously welcomes "r u txting?" messages, e-books, and FedEx as a verb, but both the classics and old English endure at its roots. Let's take a look at two new books that demonstrate how the toga-clad still captures our attention and speaks across the centuries.

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A recent buzzfeed.com link on Obscure Punctuation Marks got a lot of play. A bunch of people sent it to me! I was delighted to see a very "legalese" mark in there, peculiar to the profession of the law--punctuation isn't just for grammar geeks, after all.

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About Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog
Unabashedly Bookish features new articles every day from the Book Clubs staff, guest authors, and friends on hot topics in the world of books, language, writing, and publishing. From trends in the publishing business to updates on genre fiction fan communities, from fun lessons on grammar to reflections on literature in our personal lives, this blog is the best source for your daily dose of all things bookish.

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