Well, that’s me. And I make no apologies for it.
In case you haven’t noticed, the world of punctuation has gone rogue. It’s no longer governed by rules or tradition or even common sense. No, the terrain of the written word has taken on the character of the Wild West — anything goes. It’s a rootin’ tootin’, by God, free-for-all.
The last straw for me was when I noticed exclamation points in two recent works of non-fiction. Exclamation points. In non-fiction, for pete’s sake. How can we take anything seriously when it’s punctuated like a fortune cookie? What’ll be next? Dotting the i’s with smiley faces? A line needs to be drawn.
I admit, albeit grudgingly, that exclamation points deserve a place in American letters. Shoot, they’re absolutely vital to ransom notes, as well as emails and text messages and yearbook entries and comic books. Then, too, where would the Comments Section of blog posts be without them? That’s where such frivolous punctuation belongs.
Not in non-fiction. A great narrative just doesn’t need to be gussied up with exclamation points. Certainly not one by the likes of Christopher Hitchens, a guy described as a public intellectual. (Is that different from a private one?) Especially when the topic is as weighty as Stage 4 cancer. Exclamation points only serve to trivialize the prose, you know?
They don’t belong in advertising, either, which would probably collapse without the crutch of exclamation points. There, the belief is, a compelling headline alone is not enough. It needs the urgency, the hysteria of an exclamation point (or, better yet, a series of them) to be effective. Baloney.
Either your points are powerful and engaging or they’re not. A garish, distracting punctuation mark won’t help. A simple period, on the other hand, is often more eloquent than words. The little bitty dot at the end of a sentence speaks volumes.
Ellipses, too, are out of control. As are dashes — and I’m as guilty as the next guy. More, maybe. I love dashes. They’re like parentheses, only better. They can even act as a colon, but in a friendlier, more casual way. When in doubt, dash it! — that’s my motto.
And those, ladies and gentlemen, are my thoughts on punctuation. Period.
Copyright © publikworks 2012