It's just punctuation

September 24, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Cognizant of the impending threat, the double threat, of a Ravens game and the Emmys, we returned from church yesterday afternoon and went into lockdown.  Just now cautiously emerging into the daylight.

And emerging,  discover that it is National Punctuation Day. Probably a holiday we have little need for. I did, as a stunt on one previous National Punctuation day, write a sentence containing all the standard punctuation marks, and have at other times given advice on punctuation. But I have come to lean more toward Dennis Baron's  attitude, expressed in a 2006 post:

As for punctuation, no one ever agrees where the commas go anyway, and it probably doesn’t matter. Punctuation has always changed with fashion, location, and context, a fact of language history which angers everyone who wants the rules of writing to remain both as constant as the ten commandments, and violated a lot less frequently.

One reason for its instability is the fact that no one ever agrees what punctuation is for. Sometimes it indicates pauses, sometimes syntactic units. Sometimes it’s deleted for aesthetic reasons, and sometimes writers pepper their prose with punctuation in the hopes that some of their commas and semicolons will hit the target. When punctuation becomes dysfunctional, we drop it. When we need new punctuation marks, we invent them.

Besides, the day tends to encourage undue fretting about the grocer's apostrophe and lapses in signage. Do try to grasp this: In the great scheme of things and in the lesser scheme of things, apostrophes don't amount to much.




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