The Elements of Spam.
BY JASON ROEDER
[Originally published February 8, 2006.]
(Excerpts courtesy of William Strunk Jr.,
E.B. White, and Generouss Q. Factotum.)
Elementary Rules of Usage
I. Form the possessive of nouns by adding ’s, just an apostrophe, just an s, a semicolon, a w, an ampersand, a 9, or anything.
My wifesd*porcupine hot pix for u.
II. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.
Upon receiving this couppon, the free iPOds will greet you!
The introductory phrase modifies you, not iPOds; therefore, it is necessary to recast the sentence.
Upon receiving this couppon, you will be greeted by the free iPOds!
Or, better still (see Rule 14).
This couppon entitles you to greetings from the free iPOds!
Elementary Principles of Composition
14. Use the active voice.
Notice how aloof the passive voice is:
Your balls are to be slurped the most by cum-starved nymphos!!!!!
Hardly persuasive. The five exclamation points feel tacked on, an attempt by an inexperienced writer to breathe life into a desiccated construction. The active voice, however, allows you to write with verve and straightforwardness.
Cum-starved nymphos will slurp your balls the most!!!!!
16. Use definite, specific, concrete language.
Generalities enervate your writing; strong details invigorate it.
In short order, you’ll notice enhanced length and girth.
What is meant by “short order”? A week? A month? The imprecision is suspicious. Further, avoid bankrupt modifiers such as enhanced. Rewrite with exactness.
Your exactly one week away from an 11-inch jizz stick.
A Few Matters of Form
If you absolutely must use slang or colloquialisms in your spam, simply use them. Don’t wink at the reader.
Our so-called “carpet munchers” will ride your “cum rocket” then gobble down what’s sometimes referred to as “baby batter.”
Although you’ve successfully called attention to your mastery of pornographic euphemism, you’ve written a punchless sentence. Rewrite without the quotes, the clutter, and the pretension.
Formal quotations cited as documentary evidence are introduced by a colon and enclosed in quotation marks.
Hey, bob_r_mail0899, the New York Times’ said this to me: “bob_r_mail0899 has lost his hair and is unsexy now to his wife!”
Words and Expressions Commonly Misused
Means “include” or “embrace.” Not to be confused with constitute. Your free online pharmacy comprises no-prescription Lunesta, herbal Ecstasy, and a secret formula that will make her moan all of the night. These items constitute your online pharmacy.
II. Your best friends wants the freest Rolexes, email@example.com.
Avoid this hideous cliché.
Available in print with
The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
SUGGESTED READSRevising Strunk and White
by Dan Kennedy (11/10/2000)
A Scene From the Upcoming Film The Elements of Style
by Matt D. Wilson (6/1/2010)
The Elements of Press Release Style
by Gary Klien (5/10/2011)
RECENTLYMurder Beach is Open for Summer!
by Matt Bower (5/27/2016)
List: Ways in Which We Swipe Right After 34
by JoJo Franzen (5/27/2016)
Inside Witnesses: One Crime’s Many Narratives: Amy Makes it Home, Part 2
by Marti Jonjak (5/27/2016)
POPULARList: Things the World’s Most and Least Privileged People Say
by John-Clark Levin (5/19/2016)
I Would Rather Do Anything Else Than Grade Your Final Papers
by Robin Lee Mozer (5/2/2016)
List: Obituaries for Teenage Girls If They Actually Died When They Say They’re Dying
by Karen Chee (5/26/2016)