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Hodgepodge: October 6, 2012

by Roy Hodge

National Punctuation Day, a celebration of punctuation, occurs each year during September. The special day was founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin of MTV’s “College Humor Show” to promote the correct use of punctuation.

The value of punctuation: An English teacher wrote these words on the board: woman without her man is nothing. The teacher then asked the students to punctuate the words correctly. The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.” The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is nothing.”

Most sources list 13 major punctuation marks: apostrophe, brackets, colon, comma, dash, ellipsis, exclamation point, hyphen, parentheses, period, question mark, quotation marks and semicolon. (Did you think an ellipsis is when the moon moves in front of the sun?)

Other sources include slashes, back- slashes, round brackets as well as square brackets, and underlines.

Janice Witherspoon Neulib, professor emeritus in the English department at Illinois State University, tells us that her least favorite punctuation is the dash. “I try never, ever to put dashes in my writing. It’s equivalent to putting a heart (instead of a dot) over the i.

Oh, Oh, I think I’m in trouble. Here I am, writing a column about punctuation, and trying my best to punctuate correctly.

Right away I run into a college professor, a college professor emeritus no less, who is telling us that she tries to “never, ever” put dashes in her writing.

Do you think that I ever wrote anything without using at least one dash (okay, probably two dashes)? I respect Ms. Neulib’s opinion — but — I think using the dash — in writing — can be very appropriate — or perhaps — a bit overused — but maybe not.

The importance of punctuation (From Wikipedia):

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?  Gloria. Or…

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.  You have ruined me. For other men I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?  Yours, Gloria.

From the book jacket of the best seller, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves,” by Lynn Truss:

A Panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich eats it, draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.”

Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda: Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China.. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

So, punctuation does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397
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