The things that really matter

This post is especially for those who seek to remind us of the absolute importance of grammar and punctuation. It was sent to me by a little known Cambridge student and I thought I would reproduce it here for your entertainment. After all, I must have a blog post in the latest style 😉

‘This morning I left one of the last supervisions of my Cambridge career, having been treated, once again, to an in depth critique of my use of punctuation within a supervision essay. It wasn’t just that I had italicised my quotations in order to better see what percentage of my essay was actually written in my own words, a practice which is apparently old-fashioned (coming from a Cambridge theology supervisor I take this to mean the practice was dropped some time before the birth of Christ), but I also had used commas, semi-colons and colons incorrectly and to top it all off my quotation marks did not curve inwards. As a schoolkid whose main interests were maths and science, I managed to reach the age of 18 with no idea how to use a colon or semi-colon and no intention of ever doing so. I never imagined that I would one day be sitting in a supervision being told that straight quotation marks make your essay look unprofessional and that I really needed to watch the places where I accidentally put two spaces instead of one. Then again, I never expected to be studying theology at Cambridge.

As you can probably imagine, in light of the comments I have made above, my entire Cambridge career has been littered with these criticisms of use of punctuation, and my grammar in general. I can happily say that, due to the constant vigilance of my first and second year supervisors, I now consistently use the correct form of ‘its’ and don’t use contractions in an academic context (this obviously doesn’t count). So who knows, perhaps there is hope for me yet. Though, even with multiple lessons from my best friend I still have evidently not mastered the distinction between colons and semi-colons. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about the curvyness of my quotation marks as my word processing software does not contain options for that (obviously OpenOffice did not intend their documents to look professional), but I don’t think I mind. I’ll keep my straight quotation marks and italicised quotations. Who knows, maybe I’ll start a trend, and in a hundred years time another Cambridge supervisor will be telling his students curvy quotation marks and un-italicised quotes are old-fashioned.

So thank you Cambridge for your insight into the things that really matter but forgive me if I find I disagree. And to those who are reading this, I apologise for any mistakes in my grammar, but I really couldn’t care less.’


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