Friday, June 16, 2006

Not Yet In The Budget: Spell Checker and "Intro to Punctuation" Course At Local Community College

Yesterday somebody told me Pitchfork's review of the new Replacements greatest hits CD misspelled frontman Paul Westerberg's name. Had it in there as Westerburg. That's pretty lame considering any music critic worth his/her salt is supposed to know all about people like Westerberg, right? He's a critics' darling.

When I checked the page the review had the correct spelling. Maybe somebody fixed it.

Spelling mistakes are common, and I don't mind them...especially in blogs. Mistakes happen. But know how to freakin' spell the last names of the revered rockers, OK?

You know all these mainstream media articles about Pitchfork? I'd like one of them to cover the site's operational process. How does a review go from writer to HTML? What's the editorial process? Does anybody check for spelling and grammar? Is there an oversight committee that says, " know, I think there are too many bands name-dropped in this review. Let's drop the number from 15 to 11. And let's take out that unnecessary reference to My Bloody Valentine. We'll give My Bloody Valentine a rest this week."

Spelling issues are minor compared to the biggest technical problem with the site: The creative punctuation used by Pitchfork writers. If there's one thing I can't stand it's bad punctuation. How annoying. Can somebody at Pitchfork please pick up the AP Stylebook and The Associated Press Guide to Punctuation?

They've been very honest in why they review albums not available in the U.S. The reasoning is that the site has international readers, and they need to cater to them as much as their U.S. readers.

So is that why Pitchfork places its commas and periods where it does, to cater to its British readership? Note to Pitchfork: the commas and periods go INSIDE the quotation marks. You're Americans. Punctuate like Americans.

It wouldn't be so bad if not for the lack of consistency. If your punctuation is going to be incorrect, at least it should be consistent. I've seen punctuation styles vary within a single paragraph. One sentence has a comma outside a quotation mark, a few sentences later there's a period inside a quotation mark.

Let's take a look at today's review of Metallic Falcon's Desert Doughnuts. In the first paragraph there's the sentence,

Although the duo has termed their creations "soft metal," this open-ended descriptor is insufficient to prepare the listener for entrance into the Falcons' vast and cryptic hemisphere.

And in the third paragraph there's

This diffuse recording method lends an appropriate sense of wide-open grandeur to airy tracks like "Desert Cathedral" or "Misty Song", but it does leave one to wonder exactly how many background details might have gotten lost in the wash.

I think I see what Pitchfork is doing. They're differentiating between how they use quotation marks for terms and for song titles. The term gets a comma inside, the song title gets a comma outside.

This section pulled from a Camera Obscura album review doesn't fit that system. The commas and periods are all over the place! One lyric quotation gets a comma on the outside, the next gets a period on the inside.

And on the weepy, twanging "Dory Previn", Campbell is "sick of the sight of [her] old lover", eventually concluding that it's "time I let my love for him die."

Here's what every academic and style guide says is the only and correct way to punctuate: Periods and commas go inside quotation marks. Always. Semi-colons and exclamation marks and some others have different rules, but commas and periods are ALWAYS to be placed inside quotation marks.