24 September is National Punctuation Day, and it has me worrying that my love of punctuation makes me seem … well, persnickety.
I know it’s nerdy to enjoy punctuation, but a Grammar Nazi I am not. I don’t get riled by other people’s misplaced apostrophes or their lack of an Oxford comma. I see the error, and move on.
I don’t shame people who overuse quotation marks or argue with those old-timers who insist on two spaces after a full stop. Indicating a plural with an apostrophe saddens me, but it doesn’t ignite a burning urge to deface property with a red Sharpie or muster a mob to lynch sloppy punctuators.
Poor punctuation does not spoil my day. Unless it’s my own. My typos rattle me and leave me writhing in embarrassed angst, muttering about jots and tittles and the futility of crying over misplaced pixels.
I never indulge in self-congratulatory punctuation pride. We all make mistakes, sometimes because we rush, and sometimes because autocorrect takes over.
I enjoy the elegance of a well-placed semicolon, the possibility offered by the ellipsis, and the playful quirkiness of the interrobang*. Hyphens make my brain hum.
Despite my dual-nationality, I have an engrained allegiance to double ” quotation marks to set off speech. The Commonwealth’s single ‘ quote marks don’t work for quotes inside quotes—at least not elegantly. Curly quotes (aka smart quotes) beat straight (or dumb) quotes any day.
National Punctuation Day
This is my kind of literary celebration! Established thirteen years ago by American Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day celebrates, “… the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and ever-mysterious ellipsis.” NPD is featured in Chase’s Calendar of Events, incorporated into schools, and receives national (US) coverage in major outlets such as Huffington Press, USA Today, and NPR.
I had trouble deciding how to do such an occasion justice. I considered…
… doing a round-up of interesting books about punctuation,
… linking to a challenging punctuation quiz,
… sharing some of my favourite punctuation pins from my Word Nerd board on Pinterest,
… listing some cool punctuation trivia,
For instance, did you know the original name of the hashtag is octothorpe?
Or that there is a dedicated Apostrophe Protection Society?
… advocating for new punctuation marks,
… or defending the use of emoticons.
I decided to keep it short and simple. The last thing I’d want is someone to accuse me of being persnickety—or obsessed.