Self-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.