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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why American writer Dinty Moore is all praise for Indian speakers and writers of English

I have been reading an interesting and highly original book (pictured) by author, editor, and writing coach Dinty Moore.

Moore writes with humour and with intelligence. Here's the first paragraph from the introduction:

"Perhaps you are standing in the bookstore, scanning this introductory chapter, wondering just what sort of book you have in hand. You are a good-looking person whose minor flaws seem to only accentuate your considerable charm. You are intelligent. And immune to flattery."

So yes, Moore writes with humour and with intelligence. But we all make mistakes and I thought Moore made one on Page 18 in a four-page essay dedicated to teaching readers how to use an "em dash". So I wrote an e-mail to him on Sunday night.

Subject: A question regarding the em dash as used in your book, "Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy"
Hello Dinty,

This is Ramesh Prabhu in Bangalore, India.

I am a good-looking person whose minor flaws seem to only accentuate my considerable charm. I am intelligent. And immune to flattery.

In other words, I have bought a copy of your book.

Now that I have got that out of the way, let's get down to the nitty-gritty.

On Page 18 of your book, in the essay regarding Cheryl Strayed's letter to you about her love affair with the em dash, you give us this example of how to use this particular punctuation mark:

I have three goals for my day—measure an "n" and an "m", memorize the width of the two letters, and look up "obsessive disorders" on Wikipedia.

My understanding is that a colon, not a dash (em or en) should be used to introduce a list. So don't you think you should have used a colon instead of the em dash in that sentence?

I have three goals for my day: measure an "n" and an "m", memorize the width of the two letters, and look up "obsessive disorders" on Wikipedia.

I am a journalist turned journalism professor. I have been teaching journalism since April 2003 at a media college in Bangalore. My students and I hope to hear from you soon.

Cheers,

Ramesh 

And here's Moore's reply: 

Subject: Re: A question regarding the em dash as used in your book, "Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy"
 
Ramesh

I think you are correct.  I also think that, in general, Indian speakers and writers of English are far more precise and correct than the British are nowadays.  And for sure, you are better at this than we Americans, who tend to be immensely sloppy, informal, and inconsistent. Thanks to you and your students for the correction.

Dinty

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An e-mail interaction with The New York Times In 8 minutes, a response from The New York Times to my e-mail pointing out a typo in a headline

An e-mail interaction with author Mardy Grothe —  It all depends on the telling, sure. But surely who does the telling matters?
 

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