Usage Notes

Leonid_Pasternak_Муки творчества Muki tvorchestva Throes of creation (public domain) 1200x1200 (crop)In general, the Pious Eye site follows, at least in its more formal posts (such as reproduced academic papers), the Chicago Manual of Style in matters of formatting and citation, and the Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary, current online edition, in matters of preferred spelling and permitted word usage. However, as the site’s editor, I may sometimes choose to diverge from these standards. This list will document such divergences. It will also document other items of reference related to the site: explain notations, identify preferred quotation sources, etc. This list will be in no particular order, except that more recently added items will be listed first.

  • My intent for future posts, and for past posts as I revise them, is to point to free resources first, to digitized texts you can download free from the Internet Archive and other sites, or to books you can borrow through libraries in your area. I’ll continue providing Amazon links, since some people do have the funds available to buy books with abandon. Though participation in the Amazon Associates program has never (yet) earned me any money, I wouldn’t want to deny those who enjoy spending the opportunity to do what they enjoy. On the subject of never earning any money….Truth is, while I appreciate capitalism theoretically, as a philosophically minded observer, I’m neither adept at nor enthusiastic about participating in it. I find it all quite distasteful. (Were I not a Protestant, I would surely have joined a monastic order long ago. Or else gone looking for a cave or abandoned cabin to make my hermit’s cell. Assuming I could find one with Internet access.) Feel free to contact me (through Twitter, or by another of the methods noted on my Google+ profile) if you know about free resources that I might not know about.

  • If you’re the allegedly typical online reader, someone who wants only small articles made up of small paragraphs containing only short sentences all written in the active voice and containing only small words, someone who actually likes the limited vocabulary of SEO-optimized text…If you’re such a person, there probably isn’t much for you on this site. I deplore what the obsessions with SEO optimization and easy (lazy, inattentive) reading have done to most Web content. Frankly, I can’t stand to read most of it, and I don’t intend to imitate it. If, after a close and careful reading, something I’ve written still strikes you as unclear or confusing (or even confused—it happens), please contact me through Twitter, or by another of the methods noted on my Google+ profile.

  • Resisting mass movements, including trends in English usage, almost always proves futile. Still, some of us have such a strong innate compulsion to resist that we find it impossible to “go along to get along” when we see the masses making bad choices (unless we can convince ourselves the choices really aren’t that bad, or just don’t matter). One mass choice I’ve thought might be a bad one is the selection of “website” over “Web site.” Though the Chicago Manual of Style succumbed to this trend with its sixteenth edition, and though Merriam-Webster has more recently succumbed, it is still the case that this term refers to a site on the (World Wide) Web. Though I might adopt the practice in more recent posts (the new usage doesn’t seem to prevent clear thinking as some usage changes do), my mixed feelings about “website” may slow or wholly prevent my revision of older posts that use “Web site.” In fact, as I write this, I feel my former resistance reasserting itself….

  • One way I might choose to diverge from contemporary usage standards is by adopting older rules and conventions, perhaps even (though this is unlikely) following some reflected in as old a reference as John Wilson’s Treatise on English Punctuation (New York: Woolworth, Ainsworth, &Co., 1871). Should I do this, it will be because I’ve concluded that the logic behind the older rules is sound and the contemporary abandonment of those rules unwise, the unfortunate product of our careless, loose-thinking age.

  • I sometimes write book (or other) reviews, and some of these reviews appear, less nicely formatted (and, when necessary, abridged), on Amazon. If they get read there and rated useful, promote interesting discussion, or just get ignored, I leave them posted. If they get viciously panned by the Forces of Evil, I might delete them there and keep them posted here. (I’ll never delete them while a blog tour is in progress, of course. Providers of free review copies would not approve.) This is the reason for the noncommittal wording, “This review may also appear, at least for a time,” at the bottom of recent (and, when review and update of all old posts is completed, all) review posts.

  • Usually, Scripture quotations are from the King James Version (also known as the Authorized Version), 1769 update of the 1611 original, which is in the public domain. Quotations that sound more contemporary are from the New King James Version, Thomas Nelson, copyright 1982, used by permission. (Though I agree with most positions held by Trinitarian Bible Society, if not always with the arguments offered in support of those positions, I do not share the Society’s opposition to the New King James Version.)

  • While some older posts that I have yet to update may follow my older preference, which was to avoid use of s’s for the possessive form of singular nouns ending in s, my policy going forward (and when updating older posts) is to always add the ’s to singular possessives, even to sibilant-rich identifiers after which “most authorities” would only use the apostrophe: Moses’s burning bush experience, Jesus’s resurrection, and so on. I do this because I am concerned more with maximizing precision and thoroughness than with minimizing character counts, and because I find the reason offered by “most authorities” for exepting sibilant-rich identifiers unpersuasive. The reason, according to Barbara Wallraff‘s Word Court (San Diego: Harcourt, 2000), is that ’s is “difficult to pronounce” in such cases (141). Though I don’t myself find “Mosesez” or “Jesusez” difficult to pronunce, I would probably keep the ’s even if I did. I would do this for at least two reasons: (1) ’s is clearer, meaning less easily missed and less easily taken to signal the end of a plural (not a risk in my examples, there being no such thing as a Mose or a Jesu, but perhaps a risk with other identifiers); and (2) if guiding oral pronunciation were a high-priority function of written English, surely we would have adopted simplified spelling long ago. Presumably, we persist in using spellings that have no value orally because they provide a clue in writing to the words’ meanings, or at least their histories. Clarity of written symbols takes priority over direction in pronunciation, it seems. Should not that same prioritizing apply to the ’s? (I follow a similar clarity-first policy with serial commas. Some prefer to leave out the comma before “and” in series when doing so causes no obvious ambiguity. I, in contrast, have decided that since ambiguity does sometimes result from leaving the comma out, the safest, simplest, clearest policy is to always insert it.)

  • For a time, this usage note read as follows:

    While the origin of some site content as papers originally written to conform to varying (school-specific) style guides might result in some inconsistency (at least until all old posts have been reviewed and updated), site policy is generally to prefer combined forms over separated or hyphenated ones when any respected authority (such as a respected dictionary) grants that the combined form may be used. For instance, for adjectival use, “commonsense” is preferred over “common-sense.” (Should “commonsense” ever be used in place of the noun “common sense,” this is an uncorrected typo; please let the editor know about it.)

    In accord with the rule-bound rigidity—I mean, in keeping with the preference for stable rules set down in references—that comes with earning an income (of sorts) editing, the new site policy (as noted above) is to treat the current online edition of Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, as the primary authority on preferred spellings, supplemented by the Religion Stylebook.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading.

If this post is a book review, it may also appear, less nicely formatted and typically abridged, on Amazon, on GoodReads, and maybe elsewhere.

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