Another grammar/punctuation question

Any grammarians out there?

A friend of mine does publicity for a local community players group, and he put together a poster for the play Moonlight and Magnolias using the following copy. Is it just me or are there a few grammatical errors?

“Gone with the Wind is a classic. But how David O. Selznick negotiated a dreadful script, an idled set, and an irate Louis B. Mayer to create that classic, all on a diet of peanuts and bananas: That’s a legend.”

  1. He started a sentence with a preposition (But how David O. Selznick…), which some would consider problematic.
  2. He used a colon instead of a semi-colon after the word bananas.
  3. The word “That’s” doesn’t need to be capitalized in that sentence.

What say you?

(1) Starting a sentence with ‘But’ (a conjunction, not a preposition) is contrary to strict rules. But many writers do it occasionally as a way to emphasize.
(2) A semicolon would be unacceptable, IMO. A colon or dash (my preference) is needed.
(3) I occasionally capitalize the clause after colon, though again it’s contrary to strict rules. A colon is the punctuation symbol which comes closest to full stop. :slight_smile:

If I were to correct the excerpt, I’d ignore OP’s complaints, but replace ‘how’ with ‘the way’ — I think this would read slightly more easily.

Whose strict rules?

“Many people have been taught that it’s wrong to start a sentence with a conjunction, but nearly all major style guides say doing so is fine.”

“And yet perfectly respectable writers employ this disputed usage, and have done since Anglo-Saxon times. Many grammar and usage experts have also tried to squash this myth, but it seems to be set in stone.”

“The 1959 edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style begins two sentences in a row with these prohibited words, and does so with nary a trace of self-consciousness.”

It’s fine. If I were writing it I might have punctuated it differently, but I didn’t see anything I would call an error. It’s style choices made for a flyer, not for a dissertation.

This is rather convoluted (some might say “clumsy”) attempt at a cleft sentence, and, as such, really doesn’t call for a colon (or a semi-colon, for that matter, either).

But it’s a poster, after all. “Rules” for punctuation and grammar are highly contextualized, and because it’s a poster, it really isn’t expected to adhere to strict conventions of grammar or style.

Beginning a sentence with But has been addressed above, and the capitalization of the T in that–again, because it’s a poster–isn’t really such an issue, either, in my view. But the deep structure is something like this:*How Selznik pulled off this movie is a legend.*So, as suggested above, if you want to accomplish the function of a cleft sentence, a colon isn’t the tool you need. As septimus says, a dash is better suited:*How Selznik pulled off this movie, (on the other hand), is not just a classic–it’s a legend. *I think the OP’s friend is conflating the way colons are used to further define something with the function of a cleft sentence. Normally, when you define something with a colon, the sequence is to have a clause before the colon, and then a noun phrase: *The real problem is money: the root of all evil.*The OP’s friend ends up reversing the noun phrase and the clause:But how David O. Selznick negotiated a dreadful script, an idled set, and an irate Louis B. Mayer to create that classic, all on a diet of peanuts and bananasis all just one noun phrase before a colon. The result of this reversal is awkward.

It looks fine to me. I think “that’s” capitalization is for emphasis.

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I’m a bit of a Grammar Nazi, and I think it’s fine, if perhaps a little awkward. People who know grammar and write well are allowed to play around with the language (my rule).

I would use an em dash rather than the colon and I would not capitalize “That’s.” It is a lovely bit of copy though, it reads like a well written joke. I think if you actually said it the colon would function as a beat before the punchline, maybe with a “well that’s” in there.

My only quibble is that I think the clunkiest element is the use of “idled set.” I know what he means but it is not something I have ever seen used before.

OP is asking questions about style, not grammar.

I like it. I also capitalize after a colon. And I start sentences with conjunctions all the time. But only if it makes sense.

Terrible. I probably wouldn’t see the show.

I might punctuate a little differently and use septimus’s word change.

Gone with the Wind is a classic. But the way David O. Selznick negotiated a dreadful script, an idled set, and an irate Louis B. Mayer to create that classic (all on a diet of peanuts and bananas)? That’s a legend.

The style guides indicate that a colon follows a “complete sentence”–that is, a clause with a subject and a verb. In the sentence of the OP, there is only a noun clause before the colon. Because it’s a poster, though, it shouldn’t really matter that much, and a “telegraphic” use of a colon would make sense–EXCEPTING that the noun class is so damn long, defeating that whole purpose.

The two things can overlap.

Can they really? I’ve always thought grammar questions have one right answer. Style questions have more than one possible correct choice, but institutions and publications will choose one and stick with it.

I suppose you could say that “data is/data are” is an example of something that is both a matter of grammar and style, but to me, it’s strictly a style issue since both forms are considered grammatical these days.

(FWIW, I’m a “data are” kind of gal.)

Unfortunately, there are dialects of English.

Take verbs with collective nouns for example:

The British are more comfortable with saying “The committee are having lunch” to indicate that the members of the committee are individually having lunch. To the American ear this screams “ERROR!!!” An American would rather say “The members of the committee are having lunch.”

Maybe not all British people, just the ones on Masterpiece Theater.

Exactly - a similar dynamic exists with “data is/data are.”

So - is it a style issue or a grammar issue?

Gone with the Wind is a classic. But how David O. Selznick negotiated a dreadful script, an idled set, and an irate Louis B. Mayer to create that classic, all on a diet of peanuts and bananas? That’s a legend.

The OP didn’t indicate how the poster was laid out, so it is possible that the “That’s” was on a line by itself:

I imagine the text was centered, with “That’s” starting the final line. In that case, it would almost cry out to be capitalized.

Well, I’ve already mentioned twice how this case is an example of an overlap.

I will say it a third time: the style guides say that one should use a complete (and independent) clause before a colon. That’s a grammatical distinction. However, for signs and things like that it’s often overlooked, and short phrases will be used before a colon–that’s a stylistic determination.

And there’s the real issue with the OP’s example. It’s a noun phrase before a colon, but it’s such a long one that it seems to me to be pushing the envelope a bit stylistically.