‘An amusing look at why I feel punctuation matters’

Dec 21, 2019
Vivienne is a strong advocate for punctuation in daily use. Source: Getty Images

My phone keyboard, and I suppose every other phone keyboard, has an exclamation mark on its first page. Obviously, people must use this mark a lot. I don’t find I personally talk much in exclamation marks.

I’m a full stop and comma girl with the occasional dash. I am a big fan of a perfectly placed apostrophe. A question mark when needed. Colons and semicolons have me bluffed in day-to-day writing. It’s easier to write two sentences.

In this age of instant outrage and OMG I suppose an exclamation mark right at the front of the keyboard is useful. Sometimes the exclamation mark replaces a full stop. The sentence is short. The words are short. What I’ve said is important. How will people know? In comes the exclamation mark.

The full stop is a dying mark, I read. Certainly on Facebook comments. We don’t really need a full stop when we comment ‘Sweet’ about someone’s craft work or ‘Outrageous’ over the latest political stunt. However, if I write a full sentence in a comment, I have to put a full stop.

I find I use commas a lot as I’ve noticed I’m always searching for it. The Oxford comma is not something I use. That’s the comma used after a list of three or more things before ‘and’. I was made to use it when sitting exams, but it’s a long while since I’ve done that. Punctuation purists can get very heated about the Oxford comma.

The dash is useful in informal writing just as the colon and semicolon are useful in formal writing. My days of writing about the resistance to the Anglo-Saxon invasions or Jane Austen’s use of irony are long gone. We tailor our punctuation to our level of language as we do our vocabulary and sentence structure.

My green grocer and butcher at Gainsborough were masters of the grocers’ apostrophe — two shops run by a married couple. They often had specials on ‘potatoe’s’, ‘tomatoe’s’ and ‘sausage’s’. The apostrophe shows ownership or omission. It’s just one of those things I’ve never had trouble with, though some do. My phone has trouble with plural ownership. If I write ‘girls” it will correct it to ‘girl’s’.

I have noticed that the autocorrect on my phone has taken to putting capital letters mid-comment. ‘Great work, Zach.’ I write to my great-nephew only to have it appear as ‘Great Work, Zach.’ I know I can turn off autocorrect, but it amuses me and is useful more than it irritates.

Punctuation gives us clarity. This grandma thinks it’s worth bothering with. Though, I don’t mind finishing a sentence with a preposition.

Let’s eat, Grandma.

Let’s eat Grandma.

Punctuation could save Grandma’s life.

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