"I like good strong words that mean something."- Louisa May Alcott
The fall of we shall in a dot net world
Posted on October 27, 2008 @ 2:28 pm by

Grammarian Castle was going on-line. Or, as they told everyone, they were going dot-net

The knight-errant had spent the previous weeks installing a wireless Internet connection for the castle. Late into the evening, the lights burned as tour writers, Lady Bea and Lady Kay, toiled over the copy for their website.

They hit an impasse. In order to build excitement about their castle, the forest and their fascinating workshops on writing, they wanted to write, we shall”. The formal first-person verb seemed, well, so formal, and not in keeping with the fast-paced pizzazz of the new electronic world.

You know dear, I think we should say, we will, said Lady Kay.
But thats not right, replied Lady Bea.
Well seek the guidance of the Lady of the Word, said the first.

They walked into the forest to find the strange and often erratic Lady of the Word, a former communications maven who had been driven mad by improper English usage. She still had lucid moments and they hoped to catch her at a good moment. Even the slightest hint that a sacred rule of language was being breached could send the Lady of the Word into frenzy.

As it happened, the Lady of the Word was in fine spirits. In the past, she had often driven herself to distraction while pondering the use of shall and will. Today she felt up to the challenge.

Well, she said, we do have to move with the times, especially on the net. Shed never actually seen the computer, having lost her mind when blue pencils were still a copy editors favourite tool. She did like to see herself as ‘au currant’.

You know I always loved the cadence of ‘we shall’, she sighed. Then the Lady of the Word began to drift backward in time and our writers feared the lucidity was passing.

The Lady of the Word regained her composure and added, But that was then and this is now. I have a lot of time to think as I wander around here. More and more people now say I will and we will and Im getting used to it. In fact, unless someone has an English accent, I shall’ sounds very pompous.

They all agreed. But it was hard to part from the old ways, even for top billing on a search engine, so they decided to compromise. I have a couple of suggestions, said Lady Kay, I think we should use the contraction, well, or convert what we are writing to the present tense instead.

Good idea, replied Lady Bea, Even though we used to think it was bad form to use a contraction in public documents, this is a new frontier. And often, the use of the present tense makes ones writing clearer anyway.”

Unfortunately the creeping use of contractions in formal writing was one of the changes that had unhinged the Lady of the Word. She ran off into the Enchanted Forest screaming about the decline of language and the ladies of Grammarian Castle trudged back across the drawbridge to launch their site.

Copywrite 1998 Beth Parker & Kate Rodd

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