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I don’t understand why people punctuate like spastic imbeciles???

doubtSelf-professsed grammar snobs aren’t always elitist jerks who enjoy feeling superior for knowing more about English and all its quirks than the average person. More often than not, they’re simply people who appreciate clarity of thought and expression. And that’s a rare commodity these days.

Maybe the punctuation marks we have are insufficient in 2013. After all, this is the age of irony (or whatever). The French writer Herve Bazin suggested a number of new marks way back in 1966, such as the “doubt point” (right), which is meant to inject a little skepticism into an otherwise straightforward statement. (For more forgotten, obscure punctuation marks, check out this list on Flavorwire.)

But for now, we’ve got what we’ve got, and I think the tools we have in our English grammar toolbox are quite sufficient to do 99% of the jobs we might ask them to do.

And yet, so many apparently disagree. Allow me to list a few uses of punctuation (or lack thereof) that really heat my spine. It should be noted that these don’t just irritate me because they’re wrong, but because they’re stupidly wrong. In other words, they don’t make any sense at all. If whoever makes these mistakes in their writing stopped and thought for a second or two about what they were writing, they’d see the errors too. Whether or not they’d do anything about it is another matter.

1. Ending declarative sentences with question marks. I’ve never understood this? I wish people would learn that a question mark means a question?

2. No punctuation at all. Ok, so I understand that sometimes people are in a rush why can’t they just stop for a minute and use punctuation marks to indicate that one sentence has ended and another has begun it’s so annoying.

3. Mysterious, orphan punctuation marks. You know it when you see them.. Those random, punctuation marks (or spaces)) that just appear in the text apropos of nothing  . 

4. Too many punctuation marks. I get it. You really want to stress a point!!!!! But seriously??!! Do you really think I’m so stupid that I won’t get your meaning, and thus feel compelled to pile on the punctuation marks lest I fail to detect the urgency of your question or the enthusiasm of your statement?????!!!

5. Misused semicolons. Sure, the semicolon is a wily little fellow; subject to a degree of interpretation in certain instances. But there’s still a right way to use it; and a wrong way. If people don’t know how to use it, maybe they shouldn’t — at all.  I’d rather see too many commas in a sentence than a misused semicolon.

Help me add to this list; I’ll save other grammatical grievances for another post.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jeff McMahon February 21, 2013, 12:45 am

    Really, no takers? Okay I’ll bite.

    David, Gr8 post!?

    But just for the sake of being contrary:

    • Standardized grammar, like standardized spelling, is a recent phenomenon in the history of language and possibly just a temporary one, a phase. It might even be tied to the economy of mechanical reproduction, and so already obsolete.

    • Language is always evolving in service to usage. Standardization fights evolution, and so is always slipping towards wrong. Never end a sentence with a preposition, never begin one with a conjunction, never split an infinitive…

    Do we still need you’re and your when ur does both jobs? And if not, do we still need apostrophes?

    Here’s some digital English from a friend of mine in the Philippines:

    “Hapi valentines day to my family imissu”

    And from a friend on the South Side of Chicago, in response to the question “whats up” (no question mark), here’s a useful apostrophe:

    “Nutn much do’n wht I. Do. Getting drunk!”

    LOL. I think they both work. They convey their message. And far from being dry and standard, they’re expressive! They have voice!!

  • Tom Groenfeldt February 25, 2013, 12:09 pm

    If whomever makes these mistakes in their writing stopped..

    Whomever? Really?

    • David Alm February 25, 2013, 12:21 pm

      It’s fixed. That was a mistake – granted, we all make them. I never said I don’t, just that I’m annoyed by obvious mistakes. Whoever/whomever is more nuanced than the punctuation mistakes I focus on in the post, which I wrote largely for humor’s sake anyway.

      But thanks for pointing out the error so smugly. Am I to assume that the extra period in your comment (or perhaps the omission of one dot in your ellipsis) was meant ironically?

  • Jeff McMahon February 26, 2013, 10:57 pm