Nathan's column: Straight to the (exclamation) pointTake away our periods and commas and hyphens and our news stories would be reduced to mostly unintelligible jumbles of letters and spaces. And then the rest of this newspaper would be no better than this column.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Punctuation is important in this business. Take away our periods and commas and hyphens and our news stories would be reduced to mostly unintelligible jumbles of letters and spaces. And then the rest of this newspaper would be no better than this column.
I think we’d be OK without colons -- we’re allowed to replace them with two semicolons, right?
The rest of the world seems to have a more casual relationship with punctuation, which many writers, text messagers and even professional makers of signs seem to treat as largely interchangeable. Need to separate two independent clauses? Use an ellipsis. Need to end a sentence? Use an exclamation point! Heck ... use three!!! What better way to let people know you’re excited?
It’s the lowly apostrophe that seems to give people the most trouble, though. Nobody seems to know where to put it.
Simple rule;; The apostrophe is used as a stand-in for missing letters in contractions, or to indicate something belongs to someone. It is not used to make things plural.
That’s pretty much it. Not all that complicated when you think about it (although I’m not sure people often do [or ever]). Within easy walking distance of my office there is a convenience store that has posted several signs advertising the fact they make pizza’s all day. I kind of want to ask them what exactly they’re making and how pizza feels about it.
If people understood the basic rules of apostrophe deployment, there would never be a website like Apostrophe Abuse, which documents everyday problems with grammar’s aerial comma.
Consider the sign featured on the site that promises auto loans with “No Fee’s,” or the made-for-Facebook image that encourages people to share the idea that their children will “alway’s be my babies.”
I can’t begin to explain the thought process behind putting an apostrophe in fees or always, but maybe we could move one of them to the bus-side ad for the Minnesota Vikings brought to my attention Monday. It reads, “Some say its just a game. Here it’s more than a game.”
The were half right, I guess. Maybe their apostrophe budget was tight.
Mistakes like these are the reason Americans celebrated National Punctuation Day Monday.
I mean, you celebrated, right? You hung quotation-mark banners around the house and played trivia games, making generous use of question marks? You ran foot races, right? Dashes, of course.
OK, maybe the national event hasn’t quite gone mainstream yet. Maybe it still trails in popularity behind bigger-name events like last week’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, or Corduroy Appreciation Day, which will take place on 11/11, because that’s the date that looks most like corduroy. Obviously.
National Punctuation Day is legit, though. This year’s event is the ninth annual, and it includes a contest to write a three-sentence paragraph using all 13 punctuation marks. Yes, even brackets.
How do I know they’re serious about National Punctuation Day? There’s even an official recipe for punctuation meatloaf. It mostly seems like regular meatloaf, but cooked in punctuation-shaped tins.
Knowing most people, they’ll probably shape it like apostrophes, then eat it between dessert and coffee.