Online communication is forcing changes in the way we use language. We’ve learned to LOL (laugh out loud) in our text messages, that if you want to yell online ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS CAPITALIZE EVERY LETTER, and we know how to convey information
- and scannably
through the use of bullet points so readers can take in a webpage or other online information all at once.
And although these new conventions can be very useful for writing online, not everyone is happy with the impact on our use of grammar. In fact, when it comes to the English language, there is a grammar war out there, my friends. On one side we have those who feel that we are slashing out the good stuff by getting too loose with how we write and offer information. And then there is the other side of the argument, those who say we should embrace change; they say that if people know what we mean, who cares if we’re saying it like we were taught in 6th grade English class.
But no matter which side you weigh in on, when it comes to punctuation, and how you ultimately decide to say something, there is no single solution or “right” way. Every writer has their own voice which means every writer needs to find their own way in their use of grammar and language. How you say something and how you use grammar and punctuation, is going to depend on you, your writing style, what points you’re trying to get across, and how you want to get them across.
However, individual style notwithstanding, just as I wrote about in When Good Words Go Oh So Very Wrong, when it comes to punctuation you do need to make sure that you’re using in in the way that lets you say what you mean to say. So whether you’re editing your blog article, or your latest ebook, it’s important to double check the “small stuff” to make sure your punctuation is working for you.
To help illustrate the power of punctuation, and to get you thinking, here is a selection of humorous punctuation tidbits.
1. The Apostrophe (source: Will Rolls)
2. The Comma
A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons. Why?’ asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.’Well, I’m a panda,’ he says, at the door. ‘Look it up.’ The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. ‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’
3. Punctuation: a matter of life and death
4. Women vs. Men
An English professor wrote the words: “A woman without her man is nothing.” on the chalkboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly.
All the males in the class wrote: “A woman , without her man , is nothing.”
All the females in the class wrote: “A woman : without her , man is nothing.”
5. To Quote, or not to Quote?
makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
6. The Dear John Letter
Identical Dear John letters with different punctuation:
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?
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?
7. Comma vs. Period
The bottom line? Choose to use punctuation rightly, or choose to use it “wrongly”, but always choose to use it purposefully.