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    An English pet peeve

    A pet peeve by anyjazz65
    A pet peeve by anyjazz65

    Remember that experiment I wrote about last week? Where I say it's better to stand up when editing?

    It works! Only problem is I get kicked out of the kitchen around 4pm, just about an hour after I really properly get to work.

    Today I want to talk about a little pet peeve I've developed with English over the past few days.

    Since my d3.js book is supposed to be very inclusive and inviting I use the first person plural a lot. It just sounds better when going through examples to say "Here we do X" instead of a preachy "You should do X" or a self-absorbed "I did X" ... you know, like this post.

    As such there are a lot of instances where I write "Let's do something or another". Let's being a contraction of let us.

    Now let is a funny little verb in the English language. It's got no fewer than eight meanings, adding some verb phrases and idioms the number goes all the way up to nine-teen.

    Talk about overloading operators, Scala can hide in shame before the might of English.

    Let's - see how I sneakily used the possessive form and not a contraction of let us - primary meaning is roughly "to allow", so when you say "Let's go!" you are pretty much saying "Allow us to go!". But with slightly less imperative in your voice.

    All fine and good.

    But in the book I also talk about third parties a lot. It's not just me and the reader that are having fun, behind the scenes d3.js's functions are working hard to keep us happy. I often write "This or that function lets us do this or that"

    lets us

    Using "lets us" feels more appropriate than saying "allows us to" or even "enables us to", especially when I'm supposed to be shortening my manuscript by 60 pages before publication. And it just feels snappier and better paced than the alternatives.

    Here's the dilemma: "lets us" works in some cases, "let's" in others and "let's us" is far out. Laughably wrong.

    And one of those appears almost in every other paragraph. Paragraph after paragraph, page after page, for 180 pages.

    Every single time I see those six letters I have to stop, take a deep breath, and make sure they are correct. Every. Single. Time.

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    Published on May 14th, 2013 in English language, Linguistics, Verb, Writing

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