Monday, August 23, 2010

Grammar antagonism

In my normal, everyday life, I work as a copy-editor of sorts. To be qualified to do this, I need to be reasonably okay at grammar and stuff. Like other English nerds, I have some pet peeves. The one that has been gnawing on me a lot lately is overuse of the "and/or" construction. Check out this brilliant piece of writing from a website I encountered at work the other day. This company supports programming that
...[p]rovides supplementary academic and/or arts-based enrichment experiences to develop and/or enhance skills and proficiency in leadership and/or creativity and/or the use of digital imaging technologies such as scanning, digital photography and/or digital printing.
There is so much "and/or" going on that my brain gets distracted and I have know idea what any of this really means. And it's unnecessary. (And let's not go into the fact that someone was actually paid, and perhaps paid well, to write that sentence.)

For example, let's say a government wanted to help people who were homeless, jobless, or deprived of food. Do you think anyone would interpret that as meaning that the government DIDN'T want to help people who were homeless AND hungry?

Granted, the construction occasionally is necessary in a legal context, but it should almost never come up in everyday life.

I'm sure what I've just discussed has a ton of relevancy to the lives of everyone out there. Thanks for listening. Now I'm off to eat something and/or drink something, because getting upset about things makes me hungry and/or thirsty.

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