Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dr. Roy Peter Clark of Poynter Institute Takes a Bow


Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, satellite of the St. Petersburg Times, has the nerve to assume standing to dish out ethical advice to journalists in its drive-by ethics racket despite rampant sexism in Poynter's employment figures. Go to its home page and look. Three women in 9 directors are on the board, which calls its head "chairman." This outfit deals with words, so linguistic shut-out of women from the term not only reflects Poynter's reality but perpetuates it.

There are two women of 8 in administration with black woman Dr. Karen Dunlap as putative head of Poynter. Three of 14 faculty are women. The last-named is Dr. Roy Peter Clark's power perch.

Category: Ethics & Diversity: Poynter home page blazons this entry. It requires ease with hypocrisy to mount seminars on diversity, given the
y-chromosome dominance of Poynter employment roster.

Ancient practice of rhetorical tool afflicts Dr. Roy Peter Clark's writing. Dr. Clark should heed Wilson Follett in his book on American usage.

“One [comma protocol], the loose or open system corresponds to the natural pauses in the voice in speaking or in reading aloud; it may be called the oratorical or even rhetorical principle…. The second code of punctuation is the tight, closed, and structural; it depends…on the grammatical--which is to say the logical—relation of the parts (page 417).

“The historical trend for the past three or four hundred years has been away from the rhetorical style of punctuation…. The drive toward lean punctuation is such that even if we still wrote the complex, periodic sentences of Johnson and Macaulay, we should punctuate them much less heavily (page 418).

Let's see whether male bias in choosing faculty reflects in Le Clark's punctuation.

Tool 31 in the book "Writing Tools" says to "build your work around a key question."

Commas should enclose the non-restrictive adjectival prepositional phrase “in…Tools.” It modifies “Tool 31,” not
Tool 30.

For a current example, take the popular HBO production, "The Sopranos." Down to the final few episodes, many questions remain unanswered, but the most powerful, the engine, is: "What will happen to crime boss/family man Tony?"

Clark puts a superfluous comma after “production.” There are other popular HBO productions. "The Sopranos" is a restrictive appositive: no comma before it.

The colon is dead wrong. It separates the subject “powerful” [question] from its predicate nominative “What…Tony?” A colon should not separate the base elements of a sentence.

A person who has never done this work would naturally have a more delicate sensibility about it.

“Naturally” is the redundant adverb against which Strunk & White inveighs. Graham Greene hated adverbs and didn’t use them. This refusal contributed to his spare style that would have won him a Nobel if a guy on the committee hadn't had it in for him.

…against the phrase by my old Poynter pal, Dr. Ink.

Clark has been at Poynter a long time and has more than one old pal. “Dr. Ink” is restrictive appositive preceded by no comma..

Silly love songs, and all that.

One allows Clark an artful fragment but not a redundant comma after “songs.” It separates a compound element in an elliptical clause that may read "[We don't tolerate] silly verbs and all that."

It's a lovely monologue, revealing that songwriters and prose writers have much in common.

The present participial phrase is restrictive, so Le Clark shouldn’t cut it off with a comma. This phrase modifies “a lovely monologue.” The indefinite “a” shows its one of multiple monologues.

I remember a piece from long ago that started something like: "To understand the relative size of the planet to its sun, think of the sun as the size of the whole front page, and the planet as smaller than the period that ends this sentence."

Clark needs to haul out his grammar primer and review colons. A “this” after “like” above would make the Clark colon legitimate. A complete sentence almost always precedes the colon.

Colons are equivalent in strength to semicolons. Both are second only to the period in power. You never go wrong if you follow a complete sentence with a colon followed by an explanatory word, phrase, clause, or list. A colon precedes a set-off quote. Within the paragraph, it may come before a quote for which the writer wants to emphasize formality.

The comma after "page" is redundant. It splits compound adverbial prepositional phrases "of the sun" and "[of] the planet."

One of my favorites, George Herbert, used this method to create such poems as "Easter Wings."

The name of this device Dr. Clarke refers to is "rebus."

Clark has more than one favorite, so “George Herbert” is a restrictive appositive and merits no commas.

So, you might ask, can you actually use such visual techniques....

“Actually” is a redundant adverb.

Now consider the story by Dan Barry, discussed recently here in another context, which describes the fortunate descent of a young child out of a sixth story window.

No commas surround the "discussed" past participial phrase. Barry has written more than one story. So the participial phrase is restrictive.

To use such a strategy requires the writer to occupy the text as if it were a landscape, to imagine words arranged on a page, to almost feel the letters

The redundant comma cuts off a restrictive trailing adverbial clause. Normal syntax is subject-verb-object-adverbial modifiers. Adverbial modifiers are almost always restrictive anywhere in the sentence. You use commas with adverbial modifiers if you disturb syntax by relocating them from the end to the beginning or the middle of the sentence.

The switch from third- to second-person point-of-view jars.

A person who has never done this work would naturally have a more delicate sensibility about it.

The redundant adverb pops up again.

Silly love songs, and all that.

We will pass over the fragment, but not the redundant comma between a compound element. This elliptical clause might read this way: "[We will pass over] silly love songs and all that."

So, you might ask, can you actually use such visual techniques…

"Actually" is redundant adverb.

Redundant adverbs are insidious. They weaken your argument and make you sound as if you are desperate to pump it up by adverbial props.

Dr. Clark’s errors rank basic stuff--the kind a teacher encounters in freshman English.

Dr. Clark's feeble performance illustrates the decline of language, This fellow writes books on how to write and sells them to dummies. The dummies praise them unless Dr. Roy and his buddies are sending puff reviews to Amazon.

Given Dr. Clark's lack of competence in basic punctuation, I consider his marketing writing-advice books a hustle on the ignorant. The practice needs the scrutiny of a Poynter seminar on physician-heal-thyself ethics.


I got into a fight with Dr. Clark at Tiger Bay about the sexist Poynter employment figures. He called me a racist because, he huffed, the outfit has a black woman as its head.

It must be Poynter party line to cite Dr. Dunlap as smokescreen for its ripping off women. Dr. Dunlap ranks bigots' most valuable asset: the twofer to cite to the EEOC as evidence of equal employment opportunity because she is both a woman and also black.

Poynter strategizes black-woman director as camouflage to immunize it to charges of sexism and racism despite its employment figures. Whom should we believe: Poynter or our lying eyes? And it has the cheek to front seminars on diversity. Poynter must have taken spin lessons from Goebbels, Atwater, and Rove and added a few fillips on its own.

I told Le Roy he was hiding behind a black woman’s skirts to disguise sexism. I was about to invite him to meet me in the parking lot before my husband dragged me away, saying not to be litigious.

Women learned to be litigious in their struggle to get a fair deal in the patriarchal shakedown that has obtained since cave days.

Men and Aunt Toms call our litigious behavior unladylike.

Boo hoo.

Ladylike begging, pleading, simpering, and cajoling represent two-millennia failed strategies to which only right-wing Patient Griseldas adhere today.

It's time for new rules.

I shall continue in litigious mode until Cerberus stands aside to admit me to Hades. There I shall challenge any male-shades' locker-room exclusivity off the bat.

I'll sail right by dingbat centerfold Helen of Troy and tap Medea's and Dido's shades on the shoulder.

"Listen, girlfriend shades," I shall say, "what about giving me some muscle to clean out that nest of sexists over there in the prime-space sweat lodge that they won't let us women shades join?'

"You mean Ajax, Aeneas, and Ulysses lolling at their ease while those two skinny varlets polish Ajax's armor?" asks Medea.

"Right. Who are those skinny guys?"

"The shades of Nelson Poynter, sexist in his heyday, and Roy Peter Clark, Nelson-Poynter acolyte of sex discrimination and misused commas at the Poyter institute," says Medea.

"What's with the three names of Roy?" I ask.

"The usual performance-anxiety problem," says Medea. "Andrea Dworkin and Circe both wrote about it."

"Viagra has set us free to twit fellows' pretense of permanent erectile power," says Dido.

"Well said, Shady Sister Dido," say I. "Are you ready?"

"Lock and load, my dear," quoth Medea.

"What will we do when we get admitted like we did to the Tampa University Club?" asks Dido.

"Teach the boys grammar and punctuation," say I. "Then serve them a luncheon of quiche."

"Let's use Brunhillde's war cry 'Ho jo to ho,'" said Dido.

"Great idea! Foreward, ladies,"I said.

"Ho jo to ho!"

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Blogger Matt said...

Your second explanation about redundant adverbs is just as redundant as the adverbs themselves. Pay attention, you twit.

9:49 PM  
Blogger twinkobie said...

Call me "twit" one more time, sugarbritches, and I will cut you out of the loop. A man absent the courage to mount his own blog has no standing to call a woman demeaning names. lee drury de cesare

9:05 AM  

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