: what’s a punctuation snob? :

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

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41 Responses to “: what’s a punctuation snob? :”

  1. ambigram0

    Whenever I text someone, if I use an exclamation mark I feel like I’m too excited, but if I use a full stop/period I feel like I’m coming across as boring. What do I do?!

    Like

  2. Katie

    I totally agree with you!!!!! Not sure if you were a Seinfeld fan, but there’s an episode where Elaine breaks up with her boyfriend because he took a message for her and used inappropriate punctuation. …I could see myself doing that. (That ellipses wasn’t actually intentional, but ellipses to me are your dashes.)

    Like

    • publikworks

      Hi, Katie!!! I remember that episode and being relieved because Elaine wasn’t a real editor. She was pro-exclamation points!!!! Thanks for stopping by and, remember, the door is always open.

      Like

  3. angelvalleyfarm

    I’m with you on dashes Lisa — I love them, especially as a substitute for parentheses (which are also grand). How about when people use the double question mark though? Like “What??” You can almost see their eyes bulge out and hear that DOING-OING-OING! sound, can’t you? But oh my, the ellipses. I use them to illustrate sarcasm in emails because I refuse to type an emoticon — yet I’ve noticed them sneaking into other things I write lately, as well. I’m frightened. I wonder if there’s an Ellipses Anonymous group out there. Should I google EA? Or ….A?

    I’m shocked and disappointed to hear Christopher Hitchens used exclamation points. He was one of my heroes. Maybe it was the chemo talking, hm? We’ll tell ourselves that anyway….

    Like

    • publikworks

      Hiya, Jo. This is too weird — we share Christopher Hitchens and Grace Slick? Were we separated at birth? And aren’t you from Indiana, right next door to me in Illinois? Excuse me a moment, I have to pat down the goosebumps.

      Like

      • angelvalleyfarm

        Ooooh, that’s an interesting theory. Yes, I grew up in Indiana. And remember, too, we have the same birthday. Creepy, but kind of cool too.

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        • angelvalleyfarm

          Wait. Wait. Of course you remember we share a birthday — that was the point, correct? My brain flew out my ear for a second there. Hopefully you experience the same thing from time to time (which might prove we are twins indeed).

          Like

        • publikworks

          I do, Jo, I do. My brain is classified as a frequent flyer, that’s how often it flies out of my ear. The old bean has nearly 2 million free miles and is vacationing in Ibiza as we speak.

          I’m honored to be your twin.

          Like

  4. the home tome

    “Three cheers” for…ellipses! And don’t forget about My Beloved: the colon!

    I must confess – when it comes to punctuation, I take a lot of poetic license. It is probably for the best, therefore, that my career as a college professor was short lived.

    Like

  5. Susan

    I wish I could think of something clever to write!
    Wait … no, not that.
    I’m flummoxed.
    Period — is a period (.) now redundant?

    Like

    • publikworks

      I wish I could, too. But let’s not give up, Susan, we’re bound to come up with something clever sooner or later.

      Like

      • ceciliag

        You are so clever.. how did you do that?.. do you have a magic keyboard! Thats cheating!! oops I meant to say -That’s cheating. he he .. c

        Like

        • publikworks

          You mean it, celi? After all I’ve learned from you I can teach you a trick? Oh, joy.

          To make an é, hold down the option key and the ‘e’ key. Then type ‘e’ again. And tada … é

          : )

          Like

  6. Lenore Diane

    You are so right!!! If folks don’t know I am super excited with the sentiment, or if I am speaking with emphasis, then I should rewrite the sentence! I need not yell, as if I am speaking in ALL CAPS!! Gracious! It is crystal clear to me now. Crystal!!

    In all seriousness, this post resonates with me. Meh, I’m comfortable with the fact that I use too many dashes and ellipses. I can live with those missteps, but the exclamation points?! (oops.) Who needs ’em? I should be able to convey the point without a forced shout.

    I think your blunk is over. It’s over, right? It sure seems over, Lisa.

    Like

    • publikworks

      Hey, LD. Years ago, my favorite tshirt read, ‘I don’t do exclamation points.’ I wish I still had it, but it grew threadbare from years of constant wear and wound up a dust cloth.

      I can’t say for sure the blunk is over, but I’m definitely hoping this dreary, grim period of lackluster posts is drawing to an end. At the very least, a lot of my old enthusiasm has been restored and that’s a huge, huge relief. I’ve never had that desert me before. I didn’t like being without it, I felt like an alien.

      Thanks for sticking with me, Lenore. You’ve been a good friend : )

      Like

      • Lenore Diane

        You know what brought back the enthusiasm don’t you? Writing about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Duh.

        Like

        • publikworks

          Yup, that did the trick. I’ll never go without Ben & Jerry’s again. Never, ever.

          Like

  7. Amy

    I was editing a novel the other day and the author used “!?!” at the end of some dialogue. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, this is a book not a text from a 12 year old girl.
    And, just to be a know-it-all, there are no spaces before or after an em-dash. How’s that for snobby, eh? :)

    Like

    • publikworks

      Was it written by the author of Captain Underpants, by any chance?

      I know I shouldn’t use spaces, Amy, I do, but I can’t stop myself. Call me a rebel.

      Like

  8. limr

    I am weeping as just a smidgeon of my shattered faith in humanity is restored by this post.

    Like

  9. suzymarie56

    I think social media has sent me punctuation crazy. I have no idea what I’m doing anymore. There are dashes, colons, brackets and capital letters everywhere. I think it’s because people are concerned about getting their point across in social media. For example, this comment is sounding pretty flat and boring to me as I’m trying to use correct punctuation and grammar since the topic is exactly that. Normally it would be peppered with capitals and exclamations, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I totally overuse commas though, I love a comma ha.

    Like

    • publikworks

      I’m with you, suzymarie, I have no idea what goes where anymore. Except periods, I know they go at the end. Unless i prefer an ellipsis or a dash or I feel like stopping in the middle of a sente

      Like

  10. bbg

    Thank goodness … I thought I was the only one gasping at punctuation horrors today. !!

    Like

    • publikworks

      We’re not alone, bbg. We have plenty of company judging from the response I got to this post. So, take heart, all is not lost. Yay.

      Like

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