Today I interviewed someone who handed me a résumé saying that he’d worked at Helping Hand-Jobs. I choked on my own spit and couldn’t stop coughing. Later I showed it to the interviewer in the next office. She told me that her brother had worked there once but had quit because all the manual labor had given him heatstroke. After I started coughing again she realized my confusion and explained that it was actually named Helping-Hand Jobs and was a handyman service.
Never underestimate the power of punctuation, people.
If I were the sort of person who sends salacious text messages, which I’m not, I wouldn’t start by sending a semicolon: although the semicolon is the sexiest punctuation mark, I think I’d start with a series of commas instead.
Commas to draw the sentence out, keep it going, keep it moving, increasing the tension, adding more and more subordinate clauses, never with any real indication about which is the most important, always keeping you wondering what’s behind the next line break, adding just a little bit of mystery about when the sentence will end or how quickly it should be moving.
It really an truly bothers me & grinds my gears when people dont use grammar correctly. Like seriously. For example. When people use than in the place of then, am in the place of I'm, you're in the place of your,where in the place of wear or we're etc.. Get it together, an the people i see doing it are the ones, about to graduate from high school an those in college. You make yourself look as if you never took a english class in your life. Ugh.
Oooh, the apostrophe with its sweet little curl…how I love it. I’ve been known to take photos of errant apostrophes, but only because I adore them so much, I cannot stand to see them wander far from home.
The apostrophe makes nouns possessive. Heck, it would make ME possessive, too. This is one hot piece of punctuation.
The shining tool in the bad journalist’s toolbox is also a mysterious little minx. Just when you think you know what she’s all about, she’ll trail off in an intriguing manner…
The comma may LOOK like an apostrophe, but it’s much, much more. Used correctly, commas can keep a sentence going, going, going, drawing out the tension and pulling it back, drawing it out again, then faster, and faster, and faster still, all with one small piece of punctuation that you probably never considered that way before. Yes, the comma has EARNED its place on this list.
Have you ever needed a break from a sentence that’s gotten too serious? Parentheses are the one-night stands of the punctuation world. They’re for flighty folks (I use them all the time) who can’t keep their attention on a single point until the end of a sentence. I like to wrap myself in their comforting embrace, closing out the rest of the world and ignoring the main point of the sentence for just a little while. Sure, I always come back to the rest of the sentence. You can’t keep going inside parentheses for long. But still, I always find myself drawn to them again (just for a moment) a few sentences later.
There’s no looking backwards with a colon. You can only go forward. The colon is the dominant partner in this little game. You don’t have a choice: you MUST do what the colon tells you to do. Look at the list. No, LOOK AT IT. You dirty, dirty girl. The second part of the sentence explains the first. Don’t try to do it the other way around. NO, READ THE FIRST PART, THEN THE SECOND. Do I have to get the paddle? I DO? Well, you’re really going to deserve it this time.
I am not convinced that ampersands are punctuation at all — I suspect that they are typography — but Dave has been lobbying for them. And now that I think about it, ampersands are very bendy. And they’re very reachy. ‘Nuff said.
4. Exclamation point
If you’re excited — and you’re definitely going to be excited if you’re thinking about punctuation — you’ll need to have an exclamation point on hand. It’ll push you past what you thought was your limit, over to the other side. It’s the peak, the end. It’s what you’re striving for.
If you’re really skilled, you can even use an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence, like this: Lo and behold! we had already arrived.
If you can pull this off, CALL ME.
3. Question mark
Like blindfolds, mysteries are sexy. And a question mark puts that mystery right in your face. When you see a question mark, you’ll never have to wonder if there’s something you don’t know. Like the colon, the question mark is aggressive about its place in the sentence. It can knock you off your guard: just by adding a question mark, a stoic statement can be transformed into a mind-bending, uncertain sentence. Is this tall, dark handsome man a stranger or my husband? I’ll need a question mark to find out.
I am fond of dashes, mostly because they indicate that the writer has a flair for the dramatic. Have you ever seen a movie with a woman who rips off her hat and shakes her long, wavy hair out?
No? Just me?
Okay, then, I’ll find another way to explain what dashes do. They stop a sentence — right in the middle — and force you to pay attention. I like that.
You probably don’t think you have a chance with that Hot Babe. That’s why you need a semicolon. It will help you get together with someone who’s Way Out Of Your League. We grammar lovers call these “independent clauses”, but really, it doesn’t matter what label you want to put on yourself. The important thing is that when you think you don’t have a chance, you can use a semicolon to join two phrases that ordinarily wouldn’t go together. HECK YEAH.
I am having trouble finding your blog. I rather suspect it is lack of diligence on my part, tragically combined with an innate tracking inability (I am no “strider.”)
p.s. I would love to know what you would have done if you had backed yourself into a punctuatorial corner like I did in the previous paragraph ((I am no “strider.”)) It seems bold to place the period so prematurely, but I would do it again. Pushing punctuation to its breaking point and discovering its surprising durability gives me an adrenalin rush comparable to streaking. “Don’t look, Ethel!”
I love my readers. Backed into a punctuatorial corner, indeed.
You were pretty close to getting it right. You need to finish the sentence with a period, and there’s no need for a period inside the parentheses.