Is it just me? Lately many of the things I read contain glaring errors. It first hit me while reading Tim Tyler's Memetics.
"If memetics explains only explains the imitation of observed behavior, ..." (p 96)
"Perhaps biological an cultural differ..." (p 173)
"Genetic engineers can now take information form wherever they like..."
"However, not everyone seems agree that ..." (both on p 184)
"The upright gait hypothesis hypothesis is interesting for several reasons." (p 206)
I thought, "Didn't the editor even read this? Who was this?" But, lo, no editor was credited. There was no editor! Is this a new cost-cutting trend in publishing?
But the news lately has been just as bad.
It is original from the Andean area of South Africa and widely grown in both the north of Chile and Argentina and the south Mexico, especially Ecuador.
That sample was from today's Science Daily. Yesterday I noticed four or five glaring errors. This is disorienting, even a little scary. Has literacy decline has crossed a tipping point?
I don't remember being taught anything about the serial comma (a.k.a. Harvard comma or Oxford comma) other than it's a style choice. So I checked Google University, which points out that sometimes, a sentence can be ambiguous without the serial comma, or end up with a completely different meaning!
An example from Grammar Girl's article:
Rebecca was proud of her new muffin recipes: blueberry, peanut butter and chocolate chip and coconut.
One of the recipes could have been peanut-butter-and-chocolate-chip, or chocolate-chip-and-coconut. A serial comma would disambiguate that. (And yes, I knew and used that word before Wikipedia! :-)
And there's the oft-cited fictitious dedication:
To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.
It turns out that Oxford's own style guide discourages the "Oxford comma" unless it's necessary to express the intended unambiguous meaning:
note that there is generally no comma between the penultimate item and ‘and’/‘or’, unless required to prevent ambiguity – this is sometimes referred to as the ‘Oxford comma’.
He took French, Spanish, and Maths A-levels.
I ate fish and chips, bread and jam, and ice cream.
We studied George III, William and Mary, and Henry XIII.
She left her money to her parents, Mother Theresa and the pope.
Grinning Cat, you are a library of information. Two new resources to which I have not turned: Google University and Grammar Girl. Can I recuit you for my editor/instructor? Thanks.
I'm glad it helped! (Hope I wasn't confusing by using "Google University" as a euphemism for looking stuff up on the web in general, rather than a particular site.)
I generally prefer the Oxford comma, because it does not interfere with reading, and as you said, disambiguates series. And if current schoolkids are having such a hard time, anyway, how can you ask them to actually think about whether they do or don't need a comma between the last item in a series and the word "and". I just want them to use commas appropriately, period. <-- there it is.
Thanks G. Cat. I learned something today.
I've always used a comma before "and", but just because it somehow looked right.
Thanks! I didn't know that!
Yes, by all means, toot your horn! You deserve to be proud.
I too have noticed an uptick of simple spelling and conjugation mistakes in publications over the last few years. It reminds me of the trend to look the other way over the dumbing down of America that has occurred over that last couple decades. I hear stories all the time from my father, a graduate level engineering professor at a state university, about how his students are increasingly unprepared and genuinely disinterested in actually learning the material. Pressure from above attempts to force the professors to pass the students. The ones that do are rewarded with glowing teacher evaluations from their students and subsequent praise from the dean, the ones that don't become tenured pariahs. It's all about the revenue.
My concern has been about the dumbing down of science; you remind me of the same decay of language. I have a lot of learning to do. Guess I am never too old to learn how to do things correctly.
Thanks Ruth for the article. I do find many mistakes in magazines and printed material today. I suppose no one is proofreading or didn't hire and editor.