September 9, 2008
National Punctuation Day
Make your plans now. September 24 is National Punctuation Day. One of our freelancers, Tabitha Plueddeman, kindly alerted us to the web link. The website is loaded with of information about how to celebrate, including a photo and recipe for a meatloaf formed in the shape of a question mark.
In honor of the approaching day, I pose the question: what is your punctuation pet peeve?
I think for me the overuse of scatter quotes for emphasis rates highest. Apparently, I am not the only one who feels this way as there is a very amusing blog entirely devoted to the topic. The blogger collects images such as the one below demonstrating unusual and contradictory quotation use. (Note also the singular "good tire" for sale.)
I was once a member of a church (well, actually, it was Baptist, so I'm probably still on the roles) where the secretary had a high affinity for the use of quotes, demonstrated in little signs she penned and posted around the church:
Don't let this "door" close.
Please "clean" the counter when you are finished.
Buy your "luncheon tickets" in the office.
What do the quotes mean in this sort of usage? In my first months at the church I was honestly confused. Was it not a real door? Was she mocking the potential cleaner of the counter, suggesting that this version of "clean" would still be lacking? And what kind of tickets were being offered? Was this some kind of code language for a gambling event?
Eventually, unsure of what sort of church this really was, I had to ask someone else. The answer I received was that the scatter quotes in this usage are equivalent to underlining or italic. That made sense to me. But, you see, bad punctuation almost severed me from a church community. So in honor of National Punctuation Day we honor the importance of well-placed quotation marks.