The inspiration for this post comes from two personal experiences. First, the nightmarish adventure of trying to teach students how to correctly punctuate dialogue. They often do quite well, but . . .
How many times must one repeat “No, the punctuation comes before the final quotes!?”
Or “You need a comma to introduce the quote.”
Or “You can’t have a period in the middle of a sentence.”
Or “It is OK to have an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence.”
Or “Just because the quote is an exclamation doesn’t mean you need an exclamation point at the end of the sentence.”
You get the picture.
Meanwhile, this week, I am reading Girl in the Arena by Lisa Haines.
Which has no quotation marks in any of the dialogue.
Nope, not one set!
Each quote is started off with a dash. And that’s it.
What a concept! Do you know how much easier it would be to teach writing dialogue with this system? As a reader, it was distracting at first, since I wasn’t used to it.
But after half the book, I’m fine.
As a teacher, I am in awe. Absolutely, one hundred percent in favor of simple.
While we’re at it, let’s “simplify” a few of the other time-sucking annoyances within the English language.
I hereby announce that there should only be one spelling of "there.”
Think of all the hours which could be saved from a. teaching the difference, b. reteaching the difference, and c. fixing the errors for people who can’t catch themselves even though they know the difference between there, their, and they’re.
And let’s make up our mind about its and it’s; to, too, and two; and threw and through.
Even more valuable, how about a whole different way to spell the words though, through, and thought?
To quote the sovereign of the English language:
“When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste."
Any language beautiful enough to create that is surely powerful enough to withstand a few small simplifications. So . . . what would you like to change?