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Stalking the wild punctuation error

Welcome to Dave Ross’s Wild Punctuation Planet, where we travel the seven continents—but mainly in North County—looking for strange and exotic forms of punctuation that seem to spring fully formed out of some weird dimension where normal rules of grammar do not apply.  It is unknown whether these peculiar forms of punctuation are caused by exposure to radiation or merely to bad writing. We may never know.

Let me introduce a member of the community, who will remain nameless because he’s a good guy and I don’t want to embarrass him, who, every time he writes a letter to the editor, employs double commas instead of periods.

One wonders how he came to do this, but his writing ends of looking something like this:  I’d like to introduce myself,, I want to write about something that affects all of us and which I hope will inspire you to do something,,, Meanwhile the editor is driving a rusty nail through his own palm in frustration,,

Don’t know how this happens. I don’t want to know. I just hope that it will go away with time. 

Here’s another one. This weird combination started cropping up several years ago. I suspect it has something to do with the insatiable desire to minimize keystrokes. It involves presenting times in this fashion: from 10:00am – 2:00pm, as if the letters were seized by static electricity and frozen next to each other. The correct way to present the time is this way: 10:00 a.m. or 2 p.m., but not stuck next to each other. 

This form has been enthusiastically leapt upon by pop culture and the advertising industry, but not by newspapers, which are the guardians of all proper forms of English. You certainly won’t find it in English textbooks. 

One of the odder punctuation atrocities that has entered into common usage is employing ellipses (. . . ) instead of periods at the end of sentences. Unlike my first example, this wild usage is as rampant upon the non-literary landscape as locusts upon the plains. It’s as though some people can’t simply bring themselves to end a sentence . . . They need to keep open the possibility that they may have more to add later on . . . It’s absolutely Freudian . . .

And then there are the people who use several exclamation points at the end of sentences in order to make a point. But if you are doing it to make a point, then why use it at the end of EVERY sentence? That makes the point that you are not confident enough in your persuasive powers to let the words do their jobs as God and Shakespeare intended for them to do.

Oddly enough, educators are often the worst offenders when it comes to overuse of exclamation points, and in over-emphasis in general. I remember one time when visited a teacher’s class who showed me a project that her students had completed. 

“Very nice,” I said.

“Don’t you like it?” she asked.

“Why yes, I do like it,” I repeated. After a few more words, and rising frustration on the part of the teacher  I realized that because I didn’t jump up and down like an elementary school student and exclaim “yah!” and employ the verbal version of ALL CAPS that this was translated into: “You don’t like it.”

Don’t be like that elementary school teacher. Eschew the overuse of exclamation points. Or do without them entirely once in a while. No one will miss them.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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