The Compulsive Copyeditor

September 24, 2009

Catnip!! [UPDATED]

Filed under: Uncategorized — amba12 @ 4:51 pm

It’s National Punctuation Day.

OK, so what’s your favorite punctuation mark?

I’ve been criticized at work for putting in too many semicolons — the essence of ambivalence!  It is the semicolon that classically belongs in “On the one hand; on the other hand.”

But semicolons can also add a firm extra layer of structure, stiffening the spine of sentences full of lists that are too long and floundering.

I guess I feel that semicolons are too irresolute and pusillanimous to be my favorite, though.

I learned a new appreciation of punctuation from reading Beat poets like [I refuse to use “such as” informally] Gary Snyder, Charles Olson, and Philip Whalen, who used punctuation as a kind of musical notation, to tell you how to read a line (even in your head), where to hurry or hesitate, when to breathe.

Don’t you think the Web has led to people using punctuation much more creatively, sort of as an alpinist’s stick for scrambling over the rocks of brevity at speed and without a spill?

Whatever else you do today, make sure to go here and have some fun.

UPDATE: Miriam at Lee & Low Books writes:

The semicolon is a good dancer, leading its partner through the steps of an at times complicated dance.

I love that!  A tango dancer, I think — a master of the sensitive, freighted pause.



  1. Oh, I’m a big fan of the semicolon! Maybe I’m just more irresolute than you are. More on National Punctuation Day, semicolons, and ellipses here:

    Comment by Miriam — September 24, 2009 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

  2. Glad you liked it! I was thinking more waltz or hambo, but I am biased; I do waltz but I don’t tango. Tango is better at hesitation and pregnant pauses, so you may be on to something. On the other hand, there’s a Scandinavian waltz form where you alternate between phrases three-beat waltz steps and two-beat pivots, and I think the moment between them is a great semicolon moment:

    Waltz waltz waltz; pivot pivot. Waltz waltz waltz; pivot pivot.

    Giving me an excuse to over-think grammar AND dancing is dangerous.

    Comment by Miriam — September 25, 2009 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  3. Though my entry is late, my new, internet-inspired punctuation is 1. As in: I just can’t believe I missed National Punctuation Day!!!!111!!11!!!!

    Comment by Donna B. — October 4, 2009 @ 9:06 am | Reply

  4. Can I be a wiseguy and say “interrobang”?

    Comment by kay — October 16, 2009 @ 9:38 pm | Reply

  5. Be my guest! :)

    Comment by amba12 — October 16, 2009 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

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