Critical Linking: June 21, 2014

There’s been a lot of ink spilled on the Oxford comma, the comma that goes before “and” in a list of three or more things. Is it a grammatical must or an unnecessary blight? (You’ve seen the insufferable and ahistoric comic of JFK and Stalin dressed as exotic dancers.) Grammatical experts have weighed in, but what does the average American think?

Indeed, what does the average American think about the Oxford comma? As it turns out, 43% of average Americans polled in this survey are incorrect.


The typo

This is the simplest textual mistake you can make. It presumably reveals no misunderstanding or ignorance on the part of the author. A simple slip of the finger creates an error in the text, but rarely clouds intelligibility whatsoever. But what flavor they can add to even the most mundane chats or texts! I long for the days before standardized spelling. “Teh” is a favorite of mine because it elicits such a strange, stupefying sound; it is the onomatopoeia for the typo. “Htat” and “htis” are also pleasant on the eye and ear, and doublle (or especially triple) lettters force the gaze to linger and appreciate the construction of words. Simple typos like this rarely bring moments of sublimity, but they do act as charming stumbling blocks that remind you that you are reading human words.

A lot of humorless people in the comments on this great essay who seemed to miss teh entire point that errors in writing show the human side of the human act of writing.


The 21-question survey, which Harris Poll conducted online from April 7 to 18 with 1,014 U.S. parents of school children ages 5 to 11, found that parents ranked reading behind playing outside as the most important activity for their children this summer. Forty-nine percent of the respondents ranked playing outside first, while 17 percent of parents gave reading top priority.

This breakdown of what parents have to say about their children’s reading and summer is fascinating. Playing outside is more important than reading is (not a huge surprise) and it’s more important girls read during the summer than boys. Oh, and there’s not a surprise in what kinds of reading was most popular in the summer either (spoiler: the stuff they’re probably not going to be reading in school).

Samantha Irby and Robin Sloan talk about their favorite books in our newest podcast, Recommended. Download it for free from Apple Podcasts or Google Play.