The late Robert Anton Wilson, co-author (with Robert Shea) of The Illuminatus! Trilogy, noted there are no words in any dictionary to describe “justified paranoia.” I’ve looked, and Wilson’s remark holds up. Apparently, all paranoia is pathological. Therefore, my fear that the Internet is mostly responsible for robbing language of its heretofore authoritative gravity classifies me as a nutter. While I’m all for preserving the poetic naturalism and evolution of both the written and spoken word, I can’t ignore the ubiquitous shorthand used by bloggers and even some respected journalists. Fellow writer/editors tell me I worry too much, but I don’t agree. There are “old-school” (a questionable term bordering on insult) scribes out there who still properly hyphenate, apostrophize, and sprinkle commas where needed. More and more, though, I see these necessary marks tossed out like empty beer cans.
At first, I took these absences as typos. But further reading of print and eBooks told a different story. How could this happen? Why? I find myself returning to sentences, panning for the gold of meaning, convinced I missed something. No. Someone (between the deep-sixing of typewriters, and availability of home computers) must have written a new usage manual shorn of warnings against side-effects. There's a big difference (thank you, Lynne Truss) between a panda who "Eats shoots and leaves," and his criminal brother who "Eats, shoots and leaves." Even our friends across the pond, some still recovering from the rigors of Oxford, seem in one hell of a hurry to reach the "full stop"—commas be damned. What would E.M. Forster do? Telephone William James for 30 minutes of grammatical therapy? And no good whining about the relentless use of dude and awesome and Twitterly LOLs. I've had enough well-meaning folks, victimized by my "ponderous" screed (in 140 or fewer characters), claiming—right now—LMAO. Roll with the punches, pal... I will. So long as I'm allowed a few old-school commas—I mean ducks—under that merciless new glove.