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Thursday, July 22, 2010

(! * # @ ; /)

As someone who writes for a living, I have opinions about punctuation.

I won't claim that they are the most knowledgeable opinions. Sometimes I'm unsure whether a comma or a semi-colon is called for. I use punctuation more because it "feels" right than because it fits within the rules set for by Strunk and White. That must be the creative side of me leaking out.

For a long time, I had a love affair with the ellipses. You know, those three cute little dots that allow a thought to linger. . . I still find the ellipses enjoyable, but don't use them as often as I once did.

The dash -- can't remember if it's technically an em dash or an en dash and I don't really care -- also has a place in my compositional heart. It lets me interrupt myself, which is something I do frequently when I'm talking.

As an editor trying clean up other people's writing, the bane of my existence has always been the exclamation point. Do we really need to make that many exclamations? And even if the situation calls for a statement to be delivered with that much enthusiasm or emphasis, in my mind there is never an excuse for the mulitple exclamations. Seeing !!!!!! in a letter or article just makes my skin crawl.

A strange thing happened, however. I started blogging and I started finding myself using the exclamation point more freely -- though never in multiples. What's more, I use it in combination with the question mark on a fairly regular basis. How crazy is that?!

Do other people think about punctuation like I do? Obviously some must because the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves was popular enough to make it to the book section of Costco. (Strangely, I've never read it. ) And way before Lynn Truss turned her frustration with punctuational ignorance into a best-seller, Schoolhouse Rock addressed the use of punctuation in the context of catchy grammar lessons.



Do you have a favorite piece of punctuation? Or are you like E.E. Cummings, who felt that punctuation was optional?

12 comments:

Momza said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Momza said...

I think about punctuation all the time. I wonder if my writings are gosh-awful to more educated readers or not.
I love Schoolhouse Rock too.
And thanks to you, I know more about ee cummings.

Shauna said...

I am really bad with punctuation and grammar. I love writing, but I am not good with punctuation!

My favorite piece of punctuation is the exclamation mark. I try not to use it too frequently in my creative writing, I use it a lot in blog posts and facebook statuses and comments. It's how I think my sentence would end if I were speaking out loud. I'm just very happy and excited!

Eternal Lizdom said...

In my professional writing, I am far more cautious and rule abiding. When blogging or writing online, I am writing with the intent of getting feeling across so I write the way I feel.

Sharon Cohen said...

I have a love affair with the dash. I simply cannot get enough of it. I've been using the dash to create runaway phrases ever since I read the following for the first time.

"It's so hard to be an on-your-own-do-it-yourself-because-no-one-is-going-to-do-it-for-you grown-up."

I have no idea who originated that but I have used the dash extensively since then. It is my signature-trademark-punctuation.

Andrea said...

I agree with Eternal Lizdom. If I am writing something professionally, I stick by the rules. On my blog, however, its all good!

Amy said...

As I read this, I kept thinking that you and I must be far more alike than we realize! (Yep, used the exclamation point.) I, too, have had love affairs (mine still ongoing) with ellipses and I'm obviously fond of the parentheses as both of my voices need to share their minds.

Love it!

babybeezymom said...

Totally agree... i am a fan of the triple dot (ellipses). Not sure why... Feels better than just simple putting a period. I definitely don't follow punctuation rules in my blog, heck, I'm lucky to get the spelling right. So, exclamation point away!!!!! Doesn't bother me a bit.

B said...

I'm guilty of...probably way too often. The next time I add in !!!! I know I'll end up thinking of you and perhaps I'll take one or two away.

Dysfunctional Mom said...

I don't claim to be the most knowledgeable person on earth when it comes to punctuation, but there are several errors that drive me insane. Misplaced apostrophes being numbero uno on that list.

Anonymous said...

I just finished a grammar course called "Fundamentals of English: Grammar and Editing". I did very well in the course getting a 99% on the exam and a 94% final grade. On the downside, I now notice, and am distracted by, grammatical errors. LOL. I enjoyed the course though. It was fun and refreshed my grade school teachings. :)

Diane
Toronto, ON

Michelle said...

You are not alone. I love it too!