Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to improve writing (no. 33)

In the Enfield Tennis Academy dining hall:

There’s a sign in a kitchen-staffer’s crude black block caps taped to the dispenser’s façade that says MILK IS FILLING; DRINK WHAT YOU TAKE. The sign used to say MILK IS FILLING, DRINK WHAT YOU TAKE until the comma was semicolonized by the insertion of a blue dot by a fairly obvious person.

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (Boston: Little, Brown, 1996).
The fairly obvious person is Avril Incandenza, Enfield Tennis Academy Dean of Academic Affairs and of Females, “the only female academic ever to hold the Macdonald Chair in Prescriptive Usage at the Royal Victoria College of McGill University.” She’s a co-founder of the Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts, “a bramble in the flank of advertisers, corporations, and all fast-and-loose-players with the integrity of public discourse.” Among the MGM’s targets: supermarkets with 10 ITEMS OR LESS signs. Avril Incandenza, endnote 260 tells us, “always grades everything in blue ink.” Note the pun on colonize.

[This post is no. 33 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose. This post is the first in which a fictional character has done the improving.]

Related reading
All How to improve writing posts (via Pinboard)
How to punctuate a sentence
How to punctuate more sentences

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