first off, let me (re)-introduce myself. my name is ian lovett. I'm a senior at amherst college who should have graduated already and on-again-off-again boyfriend of one neda maghbouleh. according to neda, you and i have met. sadly, this meeting supposedly happened 3 years ago, the same day i met 9878798987 other friends of hers, so i don't remember you (or anyone else i met that day) specifically. sorry.
i any case, i have been a fan of your blog for quite a while now, and i'm glad to see you're back in the swing of things after that long hiatus. the mcewan v. visiwanathan post was particularly excellent.
however, there is one incredibly minor tendency in your writing that continues to bug me: your use of colons after verbs. the wonderful thing about the colon is that it can mean just about anything you want it to mean: it can signify an elaboration is forthcoming, or a list, or simply a restatement or explanation.
but you cannot use a colon anywhere you like, which is to say, a colon cannot directly follow a verb. or a preposition. so the sentencce "This is on grounds of: the total number of words used in the titles of ALL his novels is: 21" is actually stuck in some grammatical state of nature. (also, two colons in the same sentence just. looks. weird). if you eliminated the first colon altogether (it has no reason to be there), and left out the "is" after "novel" (as you do in the following sentence) that would solve the problem. or you could replace the colon with an ellipsis. but the ellipsis is lame, i know.
you write far too well to keep making this simple mistake. apologies if this is the stupidest, most annoying post you've ever gotten. my thesis is due in a week, i just finished a full draft, and now i have only editing left to do. so, naturally, i am editing writing for people who don't want/need my help instead of editing my own.
my dear ian,
your comment is far from the stupidest, most annoying post i've ever gotten. on the contrary: your attention to the nuances of punctuation warms the cockles (or are cockles lifted?) of my sly little heart.
you're correct that there are restrictions on the usage of a colon; however, you're incorrect that they're defined by the role of the preceding word. if i remember correctly, according to CMS a colon cannot be used in the following instances:
1. in a list, when the antecedent clause comprises the first portion of what, when coupled with any item from the list, creates a full sentence.
2. when nominatively addressing an audience ("my dear companions"), in such times when the remarks following the address are greater than one sentence.
The former of these two is likely the one you're referring to as regards prepositions and verbs, since these sorts of lists in question tend to fill in either the predicate or the prepositional phrase of a sentence. So you're correct, yes, that my use of "on the grounds of:" is incorrect, since the list that follows (a one-item list, but a list nonetheless) relies upon its introducing clause to make sense.
my tendency to insert colons hither and thither, though, is not so much a manifestation of any lack of punctuational knowledge on my part; rather, it's simply a quirk of the tone of thought in which i blog. it's well documented that the internet is the grammatical equivalent of uncharted territory: run-on sentences, the disgusting habit of using "u" for "you," the TWOP-propagated elision of verbs of potentiality ("which? gross."), entire missives written sans capitalization, &c. in fact, perhaps the most exciting grammatical evolution engendered by the internet is an increasing acceptance of irregular - yet logical - punctuation, as illustrated here:
but you cannot use a colon anywhere you like, which is to say, a colon cannot directly follow a verb. or a preposition.
that second sentence really ought to be preceded by a comma, oughtn't it? but nonetheless the sentence fragment parses smoothly. never mind that the first comma ought to be a semicolon.
i suppose what i'm trying to say here is: half the time when i use colons incorrectly, i do it because i'm not thinking about the rules. the other half of the time? i don't care.