Posts Tagged ‘Punctuation’

Dear Sons of Mine:

It’s been very weird for me for you to have phones and, with them, social media accounts. You know I gave you phones only because you had good grades and are fairly responsible (and because you not having phones was starting to be a pain for me).

The weirdest conversation so far was this one with you, Gideon, not too long ago:

You: Today is Glenn’s birthday.
Me: Glenn who?
You: Glenn, your boss.
Me: Wait … what? How do you know?
You: We are friends on Facebook.
Me: !!!

But strange conversations are now de rigueur. Behold (this convo comes after your father talked about your baseball team going from “last to first”):

And here is this soon-to-be classic from you, Dominic (you never text me unless you want something):

My head nearly exploded. Please, please pay attention in language arts class and USE PUNCTUATION (or you’ll never again get what you want from me, a grammarian who is a stickler for proper punctuation).

You both make me crazy. And also, I love you.


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Dear readers (and, I hope, fellow lovers of language):

I need a break from the 2016 election.

Let’s talk about the serial comma (also called the Oxford comma) for a moment. We’ve all seen the following to advocate for its use:

But here’s the thing: I would use a colon to clarify if I really meant that JFK and Stalin had side jobs. My sentence would read:

We invited the strippers: JFK and Stalin.

If I meant that JFK, Stalin and some ladies working their way through college were all coming to the party, I would write:

We invited JFK, Stalin and the strippers.

I’m a fan of improving clarity by rewriting. No need to overwork the comma and use it for a simple series.

However, we cannot give the comma a gold watch and say goodbye. We still need it. And some people certainly appreciate it. (Read this from the bottom up.)

Email courtesy of 36-hour Tina

Email courtesy of 36-hour Tina


We also need articles or bad things happen.


Image courtesy of Shane Marshall Brown

Image courtesy of Shane Marshall Brown

A “the” before “pen” would have made all the difference. (Or even a bigger space before “is.”)

What we don’t need is random quotation marks — not even one random quotation mark, as seen in the photo below. (By the way, quotation marks come in pairs. That’s how they work. But if the signmaker had added another, we’d be wondering what the dogs are actually doing.)


Image courtesy of Angela DeVore

Please send me your sign/email/meme fails in the comments or via Twitter (@BethCon5). I think we all will be needing more election breaks over the next 45 days.


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Dear Apostrophe:

You really need a vacation. You clearly are overworked. I’ve lost track of all the times you’ve had to show up unnecessarily on a sign.

Here’s an example of what I mean:


I guess the sign’s writer thought the S would be lonely without you. You and I both know that the letter can get by on its own. No need to call you in.

I wish you could assert yourself. Just say “no” to incorrect possessives. I wish I could do something to help beyond calling attention to your situation with this blog.

Take some of your friends — the quotation marks for example — and run away for a while to rest up. They need a vacation too:

There's more wrong here than just quotation mark overuse. (Photo courtesy of Karla Knudsen)

There’s more wrong here than just quotation mark overuse. (Photo courtesy of Karla Knudsen)

I hear the Maici River in Brazil is lovely this time of year. You’d get a welcome respite among the Pirahã.

Just know I’ll only request you in an emergency. You know, one of the following situations: showing possession (“Is that Gideon’s dirty sock?”),  making contractions (“No, it’s Dominic’s dirty sock.”), and indicating when a letter is deliberately left out (“Did Eddie just call me a dirty ol’ ‘ho’?”). And you never have to worry that I’ll mistake you for your doppelgänger, the single quotation mark.

Wishing you a happy vacation,

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The ubiquitous Facebook Eeyore

Dear Facebook Friends:

I think I need to explain why I use Facebook. I use it to:

  • Stay connected with people I don’t see every day.
  • Find out interesting information (news, trivia, links, etc.).
  • Enjoy astute and/or funny comments on links, status updates, photos, etc.
  • Share photos.
  • Make plans.
  • Promote new posts on this blog.

I do not use it to:

  • Boost my self-esteem by sending friend requests to everyone who breathes in my direction.
  • Boost other people’s self-esteem by blowing sunshine up their asses constantly. (Some people seem to need this. Sorry. I can’t do it.)

I barely know some of you on my friends list, but that’s OK. There must be something about your posts I like. If not, I hide your posts in my news feed.

What kinds of things make me want to hide you?

  • Passive-aggressive status updates.
  • Posts about what new material items you have acquired, will acquire or want to acquire.
  • Song lyrics, Bible verses and cryptic poetry.
  • Minutiae of your life.
  • Constant complaining.
  • Relentless self-promotion.
  • Trash-talking.
  • Numerous photos of yourself taken with your phone.
  • Posting opinions and then getting mad if someone disagrees with you.
  • Game and app invitations and posts.

Once in a while is fine for all these things. (Heck, I’m even guilty of a couple of those.) If it is every day, then Houston, we have a problem.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Take a look at this comic from The Oatmeal.

I rarely defriend people, though, because I worry about backlash. I am thrilled (THRILLED!), though, when one of these repeat offenders defriends me.

This happened recently. Perhaps the person hoped to punish me by denying me access to constant attention-seeking status reports, on which I refused to comment. We don’t share the same goals, sense of humor, world views, values, or even the same appreciation for punctuation. So neither of us was getting anything out of this virtual relationship.

Of course I wish this person all the best in life. I really do. I’m just happy not to be part of it on Facebook, or feel guilty for not having anything to say about it.

Now, as for the rest of you, I look forward to your funny observations, shrewd comments, links to Daily Show clips, and details of strange experiences like watching someone take photos of your house.

Update away, good friends!

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Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be.

— John Mellencamp

Dear Citizens of Ringgold, Georgia:

I am totally impressed with you. Small towns often get a bad rap — targeted as intolerant communities. And maybe some (many) are.

But you are showing via AMC’s new show, “Small Town Security,” that you are accepting of different kinds of people, including transgendered “lieutenant” Dennis Croft.

I admit I didn’t really see that coming in the first episode. I thought Croft might be gay, but the truth was more surprising and interesting. What’s more, Croft is in love with his married boss, Joan Koplan, otherwise known as “The Chief.” She owns JJK Security with her husband Irwin, who seems to be accepting of this situation and enjoys the meals Croft cooks for them on a regular basis. Fascinating. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Croft (second from left), Koplan (center) and the cast of “Small Town Security”

And you, citizens of Ringgold, don’t appear to be fazed at all. At least, not according to Croft. Good for you!

You certainly aren’t like these punctuation- and spelling-challenged people:

(My favorite is “high fullutent.” Yes, I think they meant “highfaluting.” And I think I’m about 12 things on that list.)

Anyway, thanks for showing that “small town” doesn’t always mean “small-minded.”

Slack-jawed in awe,

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Dear Spammers:

I appreciate your attempts to make your comments on my blog look legitimate. However, I think it is time to hire someone who has a better command of the English language.

For example, Pace Express, I can’t imagine how my website “got here up.” And please don’t “clutch [my] RSS feed” or anything else.

Viagra online, I’m not sure what it means to “larn,” but I don’t think I want that either. I won’t mention the run-on sentence because I always try to be “user genial.”

And as for you, Olive Garden, your teacher needs more than “this tips.”

I know you, as spammers, have to do what you have to do. Please just try to use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation while you do it.

Thank you for your consideration.

Offering “clearness for [my] submit,”

* “Spam” is a portmanteau of those two words. Now you know.

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On this day of thanksgiving, I am thankful for family, friends, health, a great job, and all of the usual things.

And I’m also thankful for punctuation.

  • Quotation marks: Thank you for telling us when someone else starts talking and finishes, helping us recognize exact language in other instances, and also when a word is not being used in its usual sense. I feel awful that people incorrectly use you to emphasize a word.
  • Parentheses: Without you, we would not know that the writer is offering an aside (information that is useful, but not crucial).
  • Brackets: You are underused, I think, because people don’t know what to do with you. You set text apart, insert some information, identify clarifications, enclose missing material, and help out in math. Perhaps you are not as common as [several other marks] but you are useful nonetheless. Thanks!
  • Ellipsis: People like to add to you. But it’s nice that you have just three simple characters … and that you show that the writer omitted something.
  • Hyphen: Thank you for connecting words to modify a noun. Without you, the phrase “dirty-movie theater” wouldn’t be as interesting. We also appreciate the way you create numbers, show time periods and create fractions.
  • Dash: You are another mark with substance — like a super hyphen — to show change in thought or that the speaker has been interrupted. Thank you for your heavy lifting. (Note: I’m talking about the “em dash” here. AP Style doesn’t recognize the “en dash,” so I don’t either.)
  • Question mark: Do you know how useful you are? Thank you for allowing us to ask a question. And in Spanish, you get all fancy!
  • Exclamation point: You are the sad victim of abuse. It’s terrible! When used sparingly, you provide an element of excitement. Thank you!
  • Apostrophe: Thank you for letting us know what belongs to whom, and when some letters are missing. You’re the best!
  • Comma: We appreciate your ability to link similar items, but also show difference.
  • Semicolon: You’re like a super comma; we celebrate you because you are completely awesome.
  • Colon: You are more substantial than a comma or semicolon, but not quite as burly as a period. In addition to making introductions, you do other important things: separate hours from minutes, chapter from verse, and two numbers in a proportion. Thanks.
  • Period: We celebrate your ability to end a thought. Period.

Thank you, handy symbols — not just today, but every day!

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