Thursday, September 8, 2011

! ? , ; : (-) . . . .

My dictionary defines punctuation as “the act, practice or system of using certain standardized marks and signs in writing and printing, as to separate sentences, independent clauses, parenthetical phrases, etc., in order to make the meaning more easily understood.” Punctuation  creates order out of chaos and provides us with clear, universal communication. Consider this: I love punctuation! Or, the alternative: I love punctuation  (It is extremely difficult for me to leave out the period or exclamation point on that last sentence. I can’t feel my pulse and I’m having trouble breathing. Punctuation withdrawal?) Actually, I feel the same way about capitalization, grammar and spelling but those are topics for future posts.

Words, all by themselves, could never fully express the thoughts that I’m trying to convey to the person or persons who are reading a letter, an email or a novel that I’ve written. I don’t even want to imagine a world without punctuation. Unfortunately, lately, I’ve had many opportunities to glimpse that world: texting, instant messaging and even writing quick comments on some of the social networks often show a total lack or blatant misuse of punctuation.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think all of those means of communication are great and I know that brevity is necessary; at least people are trying to communicate with one another and that’s always a good thing. My concern is that everyone will become so accustomed to using the abbreviated forms of words with little or no punctuation that, the practice will eventually become common and even acceptable. That’s how slang and buzz words came into being; people used them so much that they’ve become universally accepted. Let’s not let that happen to punctuation. I’m not sure my heart could take it!


  1. I agree with you, Patricia. Punctuation is elegant and meaningful. Alas, fewer and fewer people know how to punctuate correctly, or know how to use punctuation to make their sentences stronger and more meaningful. I think you're right to imply that abbreviated spelling is partly to blame. Twitter and texting may have their uses, but they're also spreading the virus of illiteracy.

  2. I have students who will write essays in class and say things like LOL and XL, and I can't stand it. First, I have never in my life sent a text message, so I don't know what half the stuff means. And second, it's not appropriate. Words are meant to be words, and as the building blocks of sentences, require respect and attention.

  3. John and William, thanks for your comments. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who feels so strongly about this.

  4. Patricia, you are so right, language is beauty and the written form stresses ones love of words. I may not be an authority on punctuation, but I do respect its place. Many times, if I wrote how I speak there would be noting but run-on, jumble, and disconnected sentences, for I jump around, usually getting back to the main topic. So I needed this blog. Thank you. And, no I do not appreciate the new jargon of not spelling out words, its as if spelling correctly is going byways, plus I don't know what XL and some of those other words mean, are they really abbreviated or just plain laziness. Augie

  5. Augie,
    Glad to see someone else who wants to stop the spread of "the virus of illiteracy," as John M. Daniel so aptly phrased it.

  6. I don't think punctuation will go out of style, at least in the standard English register. The phenomenon with abbreviation (and absence of punctuation) in texting and social network messages shouldn't cross over into standard written English because it's too darn useful! Things don't make sense without it. The only times I've seen it cross over are in emails from high school and college students who haven't been taught better.

    That said, the disappearance of the Oxford comma leaves me feeling sad, feeling old, and determined to keep it in my own writing (see! There it is!).

  7. I hope you're right, Beth. I guess my main concern is with the younger generation; they're "growing up" with the latest technology, which encourages a lack of proper punctuation and capitalization, abbreviated words, etc.

  8. I text quite a lot... but I always use punctuation, capitalization, and correct grammer. It drives me INSANE when people don't. It must have been something my mom drummed into my head. ;)

  9. Well, Liz, your mom did a good job then! Stephen Brayton posted a comment on one of my other posts. Here's his example of how a sentence reads without proper punctuation.
    Let's eat, Uncle Jack.
    Let's eat Uncle Jack.
    Quite a difference, huh?