Posts tagged ‘A Dash of Style’

A Few Words on Punctuation

Ever since language evolved from animalistic grunts into a carefully structured system, punctuation had been one of its most important elements. Despite this, many people today tend to overlook its flexibility. It is perhaps one of the most important tools that a writer uses to demonstrate what they mean. This is illustrated in a well known example:

“Let’s eat, Grandma.”  as opposed to “Let’s eat Grandma.”

If one totally disregards punctuation, one may find his/her grandma deceased far sooner than expected. Although conventional punctuation is clearly essential, it is being rivaled with an entirely new kind of modern punctuation, greatly influenced by technological opportunities available to young writers today.

For centuries, the rules regarding things like commas, semicolons, and periods were simply that: rules. Few people strayed from the recommended usage for each mark. In fact, only a small group had any kind of presence in the literary world. With the dawn of the Digital Age, anyone can publish their work and have it accessed by anyone in the world, as well as  have their work readily available to publishers and agents. As a result of this, more people are writing than ever before, and the concept of how to properly punctuate is changing. It is not uncommon to see writers stray in their placement of periods and dashes, even if it is blatantly incorrect.

Noah Lukeman, the author of A Dash Of Style, attempts to correct this problem by discussing what each mark does and how best to use it. Punctuation is a pretty lame candidate for leisure reading, but this work is a refreshing surprise that both entertains and informs. Not only does it retain the basic rules, it simultaneously advises readers to branch out and refresh their text by punctuating.

Todays punctuation focuses on how something is said rather than what is said. You. Can. Literally. Change. The. Way. Someone. Reads. And. Thinks. Dr. Todd Petersen of Southern Utah University validates this concept by theorizing that emoticons are the new punctuation of this era. You can write pretty much anything and completely change the meaning by tacking on an emoticon.

– You suck! 🙂
– You suck! :/
– You suck! 😦

This is revolutionizing the way people communicate. It is now possible to directly indicate a specific intention or mood without having to consider context. It is easy to say that this new method will never find its place in the academic and business world, but those before us would be shocked at how we punctuate today. With the increasing use of internet technology, there is a possibility that we may be headed into a linguistic revolution.