Readers write: At peace with semicolons, and rethinking ‘superpower’

At peace with semicolons

I really enjoyed Melissa Mohr’s deft columns on the semicolon (“Getting the skinny on the semicolon” in the Sept. 16 Monitor Weekly issue, and “Semicolons Part 2: When to use them” in the Sept. 23 issue). There was a time I hated the semicolon for reasons I’ve forgotten. Later, as an attorney, I started using the “semi” a lot to glue together related thoughts that needed expression in the same breath.

Closer to the end of my career, after reading Karl Ove Knausgård’s “My Struggle” series, I started using what Ms. Mohr refers to as “the dreaded comma splice” because it seemed an effective way to knit related thoughts – the ones in limbo between self-conscious, elitist semi-fragment and sentence – into the same breath. But comma splicing didn’t feel right; each time I spliced I sensed my deceased mother, Elizabeth (me not I, lie not lay, neither epithet nor asterisk), reading with concern over my shoulder. 

Why We Wrote This

Letters to the editor for the Oct. 21, 2019 weekly magazine.

Now Ms. Mohr has done it: She’s explained the how and the why, and given me the cleansing breath to accept my punctuation as it comes. My thanks to her.

Grant Parsons
Traverse City, Michigan

Rethinking “superpower”

In the Sept. 9 Monitor Weekly cover story, “The superpower in waiting,” Howard LaFranchi wrote that “it takes about 400 Indian farmers to produce the equivalent of what one American farmer does.” But do those 400 Indian farmers have the same ecological impact as the American farmer? The cover story would have us believe the American way is the best way, though it may not be.

I believe that farmers in all countries could bring their skills to the city, where small gardens could provide food and beauty. In return, urbanites could bring community, art, and other amenities to the farms. Industrial farming has not proved to be the best or only answer to hunger.

We need to start redefining “superpower” countries as nations with healthy, happy people who use community centers and small urban farms, and are able to share their unique ideas with the world via the global communication network. And I think it will be those shared ideas that heal divides: rich versus poor, educated versus uneducated, democracy versus autocracy.

I really enjoy the Monitor Daily’s podcast version, and I share the Monitor Weekly. Thank you for the reliable news you deliver and the uplifting articles that bring awareness to people creating a better world.

Ruth Mintline
Richardson, Texas

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.