• Jen Haken

Punctuation Pedant? Moi?

Updated: Oct 19, 2020


The other week I was alerted to an article in the Evening Standard, entitled: Full stops intimidated young people because they see them as a sign of anger, say linguists

I’ve linked to the article so that you can share in my incredulity. It seems that young adults are offended by the use of a full stop. What?! My daughter, also a young adult, finds it all amusing and 'gets' the offence. "But I won't stop using punctuation correctly!" she told me. Phew! Whereas I suspect my son couldn't care either way.

Apparently, texts are better when they're punctuation free. But why? What’s the benefit? None, other than saving a few seconds of time. Texts with no punctuation create sentences that are long, rambling and nonsensical. Or you get numerous texts pinging in – one for each sentence. Annoying!

Punctuation helps to add nuance and rhythm to your writing. A comma tells you when to pause; a semi-colon is a different kind of a pause, and I’m a big fan of the Oxford comma (see what I did there?).



Well placed colons and hyphens can also make a difference to your meaning, as delightfully illustrated in this post. Literally!

But don’t get me started on the use – or should I say ‘misuse’ – of apostrophes. Lordy lordy.


There are, admittedly, many rules over apostrophe use. But in its most simple terms, an apostrophe is used to indicate possession or to replace missing letters in contractions or abbreviations. For instance:

Possession

Jenny’s pen rolled off the table. Or: That man’s jacket's got a hole in it.

Contraction

It’s as the shortened form of it is. Or: That man's jacket’s got a hole in it. = jacket has


I’ve seen posts where the writer is clearly keen to be known as a good user of apostrophes. Waaay over keen, putting them everywhere they shouldn’t:



That’s me, curled up on the pavement.

It's more usual, though, for people to miss them out. That’s almost worse. In fact, my other half thinks we should do away with apostrophes for everything. Really?! We’ve had some heated conversations about that, I can tell you! (Do comment below with your opinion.)

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous

You know how (usually when you’re procrastinating), you see another headline by an article you’re reading and it piques your interest, so you click on it? I just did that and wish I hadn’t.

The headline was: 6 vital home maintenance tips that could save you hundreds. It led me to a site called ‘Pocket Your Pounds’. Once again, because I’m feeling generous, I’ve linked the blog here for you. So that you can share in my pain.

Well, it does have some useful(ish) tips, I suppose. Although I’m not convinced about a lemon being able to power a lightbulb…

Anyhoo, this article has gone to the complete other extreme from the one about intimidating full stops. This article is full of punctuation. Mainly exclamation marks. Which, of course, makes it sound like it’s shouting at the reader. It’s like using upper case for certain words to REALLY make it sound like you’re shouting! Or even worse, ENTIRE SENTENCES!

Now, I’m a big fan of an exclamation mark. I love ‘em. I need to almost physically restrain myself from over-using them. In fact, one of my favourite marketing agency clients has had to ask me to delete exclamation marks from work I’ve done for her clients on one or two occasions! … Ooops, there goes another one.

But this '6 vital home maintenance tips...' article, linked above, has gone to the extreme. Seriously. It’s ridiculous. Exclamation marks at the end of every sentence, virtually.

Punctuation can be powerful

There are all sorts of ways that poor punctuation, or total lack thereof, can drastically change the context of a sentence.

Conversely, punctuation used well can change the whole context of a sentence. Here’s a great well-known example:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

So, for the love of all things written, let’s teach our Generation Z kids to find the punctuation on their keyboards. I mean, I thought they were supposed to be intelligent creatures? Well, at least more tech savvy than many of us older peeps. How can anyone be offended by a full stop? Bonkers.

While we’re on the subject, if you’d like your writing to be correctly punctuated throughout, I’d be delighted to oblige. I'll write it for you or edit your writing – whichever you prefer. Email me on jen@jennyhaken.co.uk or ring 07799 648321.

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