Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Grammarous punctuality

Commas, while useful, can make text, appear choppy, and uneven.

Sometimes it's hard to believe the author is as excited as that exclamation point implies!

The mild-mannered hyphen can turn a string of otherwise well behaved words into a hellish modifier. A pair of come-up-and-see-me-around-midnight stockings can eventually lead to: Don't think you can fool me with that I'm-trying-to-prove-I-haven't-been-fooling-around-so-I-stopped-and-picked-up-a-broasted-chicken-for-dinner offering!

Really?

Really.

Really!

Ampersand is a long word for a small symbol (&). The at symbol (@) gave us all pinpoints in cyberland on the wings of an email addy. The asterisk is an outlaw (****); and the number symbol is deeply misunderstood (#). You're never supposed to use the percent symbol (%) in prose text. You're always supposed to use the word "percent." Why? Did % do something naughty?

Now dig how those aliens above the numbers on the keyboard can transform into their secret alter egos when shin unhappily meets coffee table.

"#@*%!"

It's a sweet sort of show-don't-tell policy, almost quaint.

You want to see something sad? Take the content out of a pair of parentheses.

( )

The apostrophe relaxes everyone. Who would you rather negotiate with?

Don't vs. Do not
You're vs. You are
What's vs. What is

: )

No comment.

: (

When you use all uppercase letters THE READER FEELS LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING AT THEM.

The most authoritative punctuation mark, however, is the period.


. . .

43 comments:

Cosmic Navel Lint said...

I see some grammarian's been gerunding for the garrulous?

philbilly said...

It is what it ellipsis...

Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Mind you, I never metaphor I didn't like...

Angela P said...

Many people don't realize what uppercase letters actually mean. Especially old people using the internet.
I get great enjoyment out of my 65 year old uncle who is my friend on Facebook. He leaves me comments full of LOLs that really aren't placed right.

Erin O'Brien said...

I LIKE IT WHEN PEOPLE USE ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME or when they capitalize Some words randomly Even if It makes no Sense.

Joshua said...

The best bumper sticker ever?

"Metaphors Be With You"

Nerd-lit.

I had to stop a second to see if it was National Punctuation Day, but realized that day is September 24th.

-Joshua

Colleen said...

Love your blog and loved your post today, Erin. You'll probably be disappointed, but I am major supporter of punctuation etiquette (though, I do disagree that commas produce choppiness; on the contrary, they are essential to clarity). It seems we both had grammar on the mind today:

http://collology.blogspot.com/2009/12/doin-good-thanks.html

Hal said...

one of my faves is the echewing of the shift key. it's kind of a girlie thing, i think, along the lines of dotting i's with hearts.

but it's also a passive aggressive ploy to say something nasty without it appearing nasty because there is something zenlike in all lower case.

Then there's the iRreguLAr uSE oF CapitOL lETTers wHIcH iS ReAlLy HaRd On ThE eYeS.

Finally, a joke:

Q. What's the difference between an SUV and a golf ball?

A. Tiger Woods can drive a golf ball 300 yards.

Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Joshua wrote: "The best bumper sticker ever?

"Metaphors Be With You"

Nerd-lit.

I had to stop a second to see if it was National Punctuation Day, but realized that day is September 24th."


I hope you gave them suitable punishment?

Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Hal, speaking of Tiger Woods - this is for you:

Was Tiger Woods 'playing the back nine'...?

And Colleen, I've just followed your Blog on Google. Great site! With you all the way on the punctuation-for-clarity point - although it doesn't always work when you're style is default conversational; but where precision is required, it can't be beaten.

Jeff said...

Almost embarrassingly, I take issue when people do their emotes backwards.

Like this:

(:

I'm a grammar Nazi, though. My head comes dangerously close to exploding every time I see a misuse of there/they're/their or your/you're.

Tony said...

Codler got me here so that I can codle up to the period in an authoritative manner. A post I must save! Ooops - I meant to use a period.

Glass Houses said...

I hate exclamation points. Especially at the end of something that's supposed to be funny. It's like laughing at your own joke. The only person I felt ever got away with that was Erma Bombeck.

And don't even get me started on emoticons.

LimesNow said...

I'm with Jeff, the grammar Nazi. If one doesn't know which contraction to use, why not just use the full words? Sorry, I'm the grammarian about whom your mother warned you.

i'd also submit that, while the all lower case typing may be either girle or zenlike (as hal suggests), it is also damned annoying. it makes me think the writer has no fire, no emotion. just the least possible effort to present the letters.

Kirk Jusko said...

I wonder what ee cummings would make of all this.

LimesNow said...

oh, well done, kirk! i neglected to toss in some ee cummings observation. tip o' the hat.

Anonymous said...

What about the existential ?

RJ

P.S. I think Tiger is trig palins father.

Wish said...

@ Jeff:

Back in the day (when there were many more emoticons in use then there are now) (: indicated left-handedness. I type :). But the President of the US should type (: to be a traditionalist about the whole thing.

Kirk Jusko said...

:) :(

Comedy and Tragedy

Kirk Jusko said...

:> <:

Spy vs Spy

Kirk Jusko said...

:0

"Ohhhhhhhhhh!"

--Mister Bill.

Erin O'Brien said...

You peeps are killing me today.

Erin O'Brien said...

You peeps are killing me today.

Jane McCabe said...

Erin, what are your thoughts on the colon, the semi-colon, and the dash?

LimesNow said...

And don't forget the baseline colonoscopy at age 50, or whenever your doctor recommends! If I went for the semi-colonoscopy, I wonder if I'd have to be sedated.

Lauren said...

Erin, I like the term "default conversational" referring to writing style, but I don't feel like that is a style that many writers can pull off. It takes genius like the aforementioned e.e. cummings or William Faulkner to pull off such blatant disregard of grammatical rules.

I am quite the grammar nazi myself. I even used that term in a short blog post today. One of my pet peeves is the misuse of lay/lie.

Jeff said...

@Wish: I'm a lefty, also. I never thought about an emote suggesting hand-dominance. I would almost (almost!) consider doing the backwards emote just to be an elitist bastard about being a lefty because of how much we kick ass.

@LimesNow and Hal: I can't deal with alternating capital and lowercase letters. It really drives me batshit insane. All I can do when I see paragraphs of it is wonder how the hell anyone had the patience to type it all out in the first place.

Maybe we can one day help people learn how to use the goddang SHIFT key.

Side-note: I've checked over this reply for errors more times than I'd really like to admit for the sake of not looking like a total douche. Anyone else do this, too?

Gillian said...

I see its already been commented on but yes, you forgot to mention the ellipsis at the end of your post.

Elsa said...

Have followed your blog for a time...
well... the comments you got are the same wonderful as the poster...haha...

Al Penwasser said...

And, seriously, why is # called the 'pound' key on a telephone keypad? Maybe, because if we were asked to press the 'number' key, we'd be confused over which of the ten we could push. I'm just sayin'...

Earl Tesch said...

really though how distracting is it when there is no punctuation or capitalization its a kind of textual tilt a whirl dont you think

Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Just FYI - in the UK, the '#' key is called the 'hash key', not the pound.

And apropos ee cummings: it [his style]'s been done (most notably by him), so anyone else trying to ape it nowadays in some kind of alleged homage is pretty fatuous, as it lacks any originality and just comes off as disingenuous and/or lazy.

As anyone who's read his work will know, James Joyce took the virtual eradication of punctuation to new heights in The Dubliners, Ulysses and especially Finnegans Wake (note the apostrophe from the possessive pronoun has been left out even from the book's title).

Proper punctuation acts as a series of signposts, and accords the reader the clarity of the author's intentions; it is also a signal courtesy to the reader.

Ditto when people insist of using lower-case where proper nouns and the beginnings of sentences demand capitals. To me, this latter habit is just lazy and, what with so much other quality writing to read instead, why would you waste your time trawling through slovenly-written prose? Far too much like hard work.

Erin O'Brien said...

In lieu of a pound of hash, I'll offer up some magic Erin dust:

---> ***** <---

dean said...

Whenever I see this ( ) I think, oh, some stupid mother forgot to provide an argument list.

But that's just me.

Curse you O'Brien! I got sucked into that people of walmart site you twittered, or treeted or whatever it is that you twitterpated people call it. That's 15 minutes of gothic americana horror I'll never be able to put to good use.

LimesNow said...

@ Jeff ~ I happen to know Kirk Jusko engages in self-flagellation each and every time he posts a comment and then finds the typo. He truly gnashes his teeth. Presents the public apology.

jford said...

ERIN NEVER DISAPPOINTS!?@#%

Kirk Jusko said...

Gnash! Gnash!

Jeff said...

This whole comment thread = epic win.

@Kirk Jusko: That's not good for your teeth, sir! No need to be so critical of yourself.

Kirk Jusko said...

Jeff, I might have to get one of those mouth guards.

VideoDude said...

This is as good a dissertation on puncuation as the Late Victor Borge's phonetic alphabet.

Erin, plese DON'T SHOUT at me any more...it scares me!!!!!!!!!!

Jenny said...

Jeff - your welcome annoys me to no end...

Jeff said...

@Jenny: Haha! This is exactly why it annoys me, also. When I first read your comment, I thought you were implying that my welcome here annoyed you to no end. At first I was all, "Aww, that's not nice!" Then I stopped being a moron and realized you were agreeing with me about the whole your/you're thing.

At least, that's what I'm hoping. Haha.

It's comforting to see so many people who still care about grammar.

Craig Hughes said...

Sometimes it just comes with the geography. I'm in Pittsburgh and today I feel like $#!+ @'nat.