Pet Peeves

Do you ever feel a wee bit peevish? Surely everyone has pet peeves, and you’ll find many good websites that list common peeves. Here are some of mine, and I shall feign grumpiness over all of them—pet peeves that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. And if you do . . . hurray!

Pet Peeve #1: People who refer to me as a haiku poet. I’d rather be referred to as a poet, not a haiku poet. It’s not just because I write many kinds of poetry other than just haiku. Rather, it’s because the designation of “haiku poet” carries with it the unwitting suggestion that haiku can’t be included with the work of all other poets as legitimate poetry. Of course it can. Is anyone ever referred to just as a “sonnet poet” or a “limerick poet”? Of course not.

Pet Peeve #2: People who type two spaces between sentences or after colons. No matter what our old typing teachers might have taught us (mine included), it’s actually incorrect to do so, at least if one is following rules for proper typography for at least a century (it’s not just something that started with computers). Take a look at any of millions of professionally typeset books (yes, I mean millions), and you won’t see two spaces after periods. So just stop it. +

See the following links:

Pet Peeve #3: People who don’t use hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes properly. Look ’em up! If you’re too lazy to do that, then you are probably the sort of person who most needs to know. For published purposes, including websites, don’t use two hyphens (let alone three) when you mean an em dash (—), and use an en dash (–) for durations or for compound open modifiers (look that up). Don’t use hyphens (-) for these purposes. See how they’re all a different length? They each exist for a reason, and for particular purposes. And puh-lease never use a swung dash or tilde (~) when you need an em dash. That’s as bad as misspelling the word “the.” You should know better.

See the following links:

Pet Peeve #4: People who use ellipses sloppily, or don’t know better. The Chicago Manual of Style advocates the spaced ellipsis . . . like this. This is the example to follow for books and literary magazines. The Associated Press (for space reasons in newspapers) advocates an unspaced or closed ellipsis…like this (using either three unspaced periods or a single ellipsis character). Essentially all other variations are incorrect, especially regarding spaces before and after. So know your context, and follow the recommended style. And know how to treat an ellipsis at the end of a sentence, too. Per Chicago, it’s done like this. . . . Pay close attention to those spaces!

Pet Peeve #5: People who mispronounce senryu. Okay, it’s hard for Westerners to pronounce, but it’s something close to “sendyou,” with an almost silent D sound. It’s not sen-ry-you or sen-ree-you or sen-roo. Puh-lease. Yeah, this is esoteric, but isn’t that what the best pet peeves are all about?

Pet Peeve #6: People who continue to use the incorrect term “onji” when referring to the sounds (not syllables) that are counted in Japan when writing a traditional haiku. The correct term is “on,” pronounced as “own,” but much more quickly. For more information, see Richard Gilbert’s “Stalking the Wild Onji” [PDF file]. Death to onji!

Pet Peeve #7: People who continue to lowercase the name of E. E. Cummings. Lowercasing was not something Cummings himself wanted, as Norman Friedman has made clear in his essays “NOT e. e. cummings” and “Not e. e. cummings Revisited.” The lowercase treatment was just something that Cummings’ book designers did for a while. While a public belief caught on that Cummings himself lowercased his name, that simply was not true—it’s an urban myth. In the Chicago Manual of Style, under entry 8.4, on the capitalization of personal names, it says that “Unconventional spellings strongly preferred by the bearer of the name or pen name (e.g., bell hooks) should usually be respected in appropriate contexts (library catalogs generally capitalize all such names). E. E. Cummings can be safely capitalized; it was one of his publishers, not he himself, who lowercased his name.” The official policy of the E. E. Cummings Society and its journal Spring (for which I’m a contributing editor), for the Cummings estate, and for Liveright, Cummings’ publisher, is to use the proper initial capitals for the poet’s name. So, ahem, stop lowercasing E. E. Cummings! + + +

Pet Peeve #8: Racquetball players who think the ball is dead if it hits the front wall a second time after hitting the back wall and bouncing just once. The ball is still live until it bounces on the floor a second time, no matter how many walls it hits. Can you tell that I’m a racquetball player? I’ve competed in the Washington State Singles Championships, and have twice beaten one of the state singles champions (he was hung over at least one of those times). I have also been a professional racquetball instructor.

Pet Peeve #9: People who confuse the graphic treatment of a book or journal title with how the same book or journal title should be treated in a publication citation or bibliographic entry. Two magazine titles serve as examples here. On their covers, you’ll see “TIME” and “marie claire” presented. These are the graphic design treatments of their titles, and may also be their logos. However, such treatments are not to be confused with the names of the magazines. The correct way to refer to them in a citation or bibliographic entry is as Time and Marie Claire, with italics and initial capitals. The names of these and other publications do not appear in italics on their covers, and may be capitalized in various ways, yet we add both italics and initial capitals to indicate that these are publication titles. Nor do we preserve the original typefaces. This is per standard bibliographic practice and such style guides as the Chicago Manual of Style. Yet some journal editors want their journals to be cited with lowercase letters if their journal titles are treated that way on their covers, not noticing the lack of logic for insisting on that yet being fine with the addition of italics. Where this issue happens with some frequency is in the listing of publication credits for haiku or other poetry. For example, “tinywords” and “bottle rockets” magazines should correctly be referred to, in citations and bibliographic entries, as Tinywords and Bottle Rockets. Likewise, “GUSTS,” “red lights,” and “RAW NerVZ HAIKU” should be cited as Gusts, Red Lights, and Raw Nervz Haiku. In addition, although its title is treated as “modern HAIKU” on the cover (in two lines, no less), this journal is correctly referred to as Modern Haiku. For comparison, consider all of the annual Red Moon anthologies, collecting the best haiku published in the previous year. For more than a decade, the titles have been treated on the cover in all lowercase letters, yet they have been correctly referred to in bibliographic citations with initial capitals. This does not bother people who know that it’s correct. Yet another example is the title of William J. Higginson’s The Haiku Handbook, which is treated on the covers of all three of its editions with all capitals, yet none of us go around citing it as THE HAIKU HANDBOOK. Thank goodness. Let’s have no more whining about the correct bibliographic citation of poetry book titles and journal titles. Learn how to do it right. For reference, the Chicago Manual of Style is utterly clear about the matter. At 8.155, it says that “Titles mentioned or cited in text or notes are usually capitalized headline-style (see 8.157).” In the explanation of headline-style capitalization (8.157), CMOS says to “Capitalize the first and last words in titles and subtitles” (in addition to other key words).

Pet Peeve #10: People who can’t keep a “foreword” straight from “forward” or (worse yet) “foreward.” Learn the darn difference—and that there’s no such thing as a “foreward.” Same issue with “afterword”—not “afterward,” unless you insist in wanting to make a tired joke. Meanwhile, I can never remember how to spell embouchure. Oh wait, I remembered after all.

Pet Peeve #11: Songs on the radio that have sirens in them. Whenever I hear them in my car I feel like I have to pull over—or I’m nervous for a moment.

Pet Peeve #12: People who have pet peeves. Okay, don’t think too hard about that.

Pet Peeve Links