Punctuation gets a bad rap these days. There is little concern for the art and mastery of grammar in an acronym-texting world. We don’t even realize how much we are missing. There are some of us who break out in the sweats when we see a sign in a storefront with incorrect grammar or a wayward apostrophe dangling dangerously off a newspaper headline. There are even those of us — in that select group — who sneak about at night with permanent marker stained on our fingertips, creeping through the city restoring the balance of commas everywhere. Proper punctuation is just good manners and truly good manners are invisible. As Lynne Truss wrote so freely, they ease the way for others, without drawing the attention to themselves. How many friendships and relationships have been broken due to fundamental flaws in correct punctuation? Take this letter for example — written to Jack — from Jill, with an obvious loving message.
Dear John, I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy — will you let me be yours? Jill
Now, read the letter again littered with marvellously mispunctuated abuse.
Dear Jack, I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be? Yours, Jill
Jack is certainly getting an earful. Things could have ended quite differently for Jill, if she hadn’t been an indifferent and ignorant punctuation sinner. To be fair, there are many people who are interested in the way punctuation can alter the sense of a string of words — although they, much like Jill, likely couldn’t punctuate their way out of a paper bag.
So, what has happened to punctuation? Why is it so disregarded? I implore you to re-connect with your inner grammar stickler and make the effort to be more sensible with your semicolon. When you blink in horror at a badly punctuated sign and are unable to move or regain any sense of perspective after you have been blindsided by an abused apostrophe, take a deep breath, and look around. Do you see others feeling the same panic and isolation? Are they rocking on the spot and whispering in a petrified sixth-sense tone that they see dead punctuation? Be brave. Reach into your pocket and pull out your black — and well used — Sharpie. Give in to the righteous urge and restore the assaulted sensibilities of the grammatically forlorn.
Save yourself. Save us all.