By the dots.

Daily Prompt: We all have strange relationships with punctuation- do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without?

What are my punctuation quirks?

I used to work in an inner-city, multicultural suburb and loved it. One of my favourite shop signs was outside the Greek butcher’s (there was only one Greek butcher),  advertising “lambs’ legs”. It was one of my favourites because it showed so clearly the subtleties of our language. I couldn’t buy, however. A leg of lamb is impersonal, several steps away from being a living creature, or in this case, a wriggling and cute bundle of fluff. A lamb’s leg, belongs to that wriggling bundle. Consider the difference between chicken drumsticks and a chicken’s drumstick. I love language! It’s so clever.

Apostrophes!!!! and exclamation marks.

Apostrophes!!!! and exclamation marks.

While I’m on apostrophes, I confess now that I may one day turn into that eccentric woman who goes around with a large, red, permanent marker correcting apostrophes on public signs. Here in Australia it has become almost the accepted practice that if there is an “s” on the end then it has an apostrophe. No, no, no! and again, no!! You can probably tell it more than irritates me, I can become obsessed about it. I think I’ll buy that permanent marker today and get started.

You may have guessed already that one of my weaknesses is for exclamation marks. Yes, I have read, is it Elmore Leonard’s criticism of their use? I flicked that article to my niece, but found myself unable to stop myself from using these little marks in my accompanying email. (My niece uses them too, so there!)

In another life, very long ago, I taught Primary school and every day included a grammar lesson. I hope those children have never been guilty of an apostrophe whenever they felt like it, or a comma put anywhere. Last time I worked in a school I had to point out to someone ( he had authority and could get it changed) the use of a comma in a simple sentence; this on a notice that was to be placed all around the school. How could we as educators, publish a grammatical mistake? The person concerned refused to change it and there was a limit to how far I could push it.  She insisted that there was a verb and a phrase, therefore there must be a comma. So, nowadays we teach them the ungrammatical. The fact that language is meaning and that our thinking can never be precise if we can’t express ourselves accurately causes me great concern. Bertrand Russell, years ago, feared we were becoming a civilization of barbarians with the tools of technology. The loss of sophisticated language is part of that.

I confess: I need to re-visit the use of colons and semi-colons and I promise I will.

I do recommend Jane Strauss and her Blue Grammar Book.

I wonder what your quirks are? What makes you want a large, red, permanent marker? (Do I put commas between each of those adjectives? Does quirks have an apostrophe?…Only joking!)





14 thoughts on “By the dots.

  1. If my English teacher were to check on the way I use the punctuation marks in my postings, she’ll die a slow death…
    Great post Barbara! I enjoyed it 🙂

  2. Oops so sorry, where did Barbara come from..? Kate, I meant Kate *blush* please forgive, me, Kate, it was an honest mistake!

  3. Pingback: Punctuation And Misfits | It's Mayur Remember?

    • Thank you! And thank you for your comment about my teaching- the last few years in the school were not so positive- I was too tired and too anxious, too often ill, do my influence was not always positive. I did the best I could and left as soon as I was able. Isn’t blogging wonderful? I’m meeting splendid people, including yourself.

  4. Kate you will turn me into a very self conscious writer! Is that exclamation mark appropriate???????????????????? I love multiple exclamation marks.

    • We have to develop our own, unique style. Me, I’m not Elmore Leonard, although I have learnt from him- most significant in his 10 Rules is “if it sounds like writing, get rid of it.” As for me, I’m always going to use exclamations! Stick with them, girl. And thanks for your comments.

  5. I don’t think I could live without the exclamation mark, it conveys so much – In my head anyway! 😉 But I’m trying to limit my use of it because I feel using it too much takes the power of it away. When I write fiction I try to only use it in speech or if it’s the main character narrating the story, but seriously keep a lid on it, because it looks a bit out of place in fiction. It has crept into some of my poetry ‘very occasionally’ but my general rule with poetry is no punctuation at all. I’m sure some would think that terrible writing, but I like it nice and clean, and it seems a very popular way to write poetry now.

    When it comes to comments I can really let my love of the exclamation mark let rip!!! And it doesn’t help I have a view fellow bloggers who also do the same, and we thoroughly enjoy our addiction to that little bit of punctuation!

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a problem with the exclamations. Smilies help sometimes. 🙂 But not in fiction – no, no!!

    • Yes, I think I’ll stay with exclamations. They convey emotion, don’t they? I must start to use smiles- haven’t quite worked out how to use them in wordpress. So much to learn! so much to do! Life is wonderfully rich and full.
      I’m only beginning to toy with the idea of fiction. What do you write? And when? I’m finding I want to get to know the people who comment!

  6. Thanks for dropping by Kate, feel free to take the red marker to my scribbling anytime you wish, appreciate your comments and look forward to following your posts and being further educated, hope I got all the ,s’ in their proper places?

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