Today is National Punctuation Day in the USA, sorry, the U.S.A. It’s the ninth annual celebration of accentuation; a chance to pay homage to the humble hyphen.
Its official website bills the pedants’ party (assuming there’s more than one pedant) as “a chance to remind America that a semicolon is not a surgical procedure”. This seems both ironic and timely, given that these days punctuation is a pain in the arse.
I’m a fan of punctuation. When I proposed to my wife I paid the skywriter extra to include the question mark.
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This morning I read this interesting piece from the SMH Readers’ Editor about spelling and grammatical errors in copy.
I read it on an iPad on my way to work at news.com.au. These two facts are worth mentioning because they both reveal an important truth: I’m a product of the digital age. In six-and-a-half years as a journalist I’ve never worked at a newspaper. Nor a magazine. I’m a digital journalist and I’ve only ever written for online outlets.
The point is this: we don’t have the backbenches and traditional subs’ desks of old, which did a great job of picking up on mistakes. In the online game being first is everything. We’re all sticklers for clean copy and publishing stories free of errors and typos is paramount. But being first with a yarn is usually paramounter. I know that’s not a word. Just go with it.
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The late Josie Hankin was by all accounts a much-loved lady who led a full and happy life. Sadly she is now at peas. That’s what the card on one her wreaths said. Not just “peas” but “Rast in peas”.
The florist in question, Bunch After Bunch in the Melbourne suburb of Ormond, was unmoved by the complaints from Ms Hankin’s grieving niece, whose transcribed bereavement message came with the added insult of referring to “Anty” Josie.
The owner, who gave his name only as Arthur, said he employed several people for whom English was a second language. Regardless, he said it was the job of his staff job to sell flowers, not spell properly. “We supply flowers - good flowers,” Arthur said. “We are not card writers.”
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Its time to abolish the apostrophe. This poor little punctuation mark has been abused, neglected, contorted into unnatural positions. It is a tattered remnant of its former self, and deserves to be put peacefully to sleep.
So let’s give it a dignified end, and save it from further pain.
Where it was once the greengrocers’ prerogative to enslave apostrophes and bend them to their evil will (tomato’s, anyone?) the cancer has spread, and the apostrophe is beyond saving.
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I admit it: I’m in danger of being a language bore.
I’m that guy who, when you say you’re ‘honing in’ on something, asks derisively if you’ve ever heard of a honing pigeon or a honing missile.
If you call me a ‘font of information’, I’m liable to take offence on the grounds that a font is a shallow bowl used for church christenings, and I’d rather be a fount, thank you.
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[*Ed’s note to Gen Y: that isn’t a typo in the headline. It’s a cool joke, and Lucy explains it further down.]
I think I realised I was different when I corrected the grammar of my extremely attractive barista.
It was a Monday morning; he was frothing milk as we chatted idly about the drunken antics of our respective weekends. All the usual stuff - the people we knew in common, the places we had almost run into each other, the quality of the cocktail jugs at various Sydney locations. He might have been carefully watching the temperature gauge rise on that little jug of milk, but we both knew where the real heat was. Just as I was about to casually invite him to a rock gig he dropped a clanger.
‘Yeah I like World Bar. Dave and me were there last Thursday.’
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It’s tiny but powerful.
Its incorrect insertion could mean the difference between life and death.
And it’s fighting for its very existence.
I’m referring to the apostrophe; specifically, the possessive apostrophe.
Even its proper name – saxon genitive – sounds more like a sexually transmitted disease than the pinnacle of punctuation.
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