It’s Punctuation Day!

Diana's Playpen
Chicago sign submitted by Joanne Archibald.

National Punctuation Day, Sept. 24, celebrates the importance of proper punctuation.

OMG! Can the apostrophe survive?

The Apostrophe Protection Society is battling Kill the Apostrophe, reports Joe Pinsker in Punctuated Equilibrium.

With texting on the rise, autocorrect may be the only hope for the embattled punctuation mark.

Students: ‘Us deserve respect’

At an F-rated New York City high school, failing students earn quick credits through online courses, the New York Post reported.

While it’s called “blended learning,” the credit-recovery “courses” don’t include interaction with a teacher. One teacher is assigned to 475 students trying to earn credits in a wide variety of subjects. Murry Bergtraum High for Business Careers specializes in overage or held-back students who lack credits.

After the Post story ran, students wrote to defend the program. Nearly all the letters were filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, reports the Post.  

A junior wrote: “What do you get of giving false accusations im one of the students that has blended learning I had a course of English and I passed and and it helped a lot you’re a reported your support to get truth information other than starting rumors?.?.?.”

Another wrote: “To deeply criticize a program that has helped many students especially seniors to graduate I should not see no complaints.”

One student said the online system beats the classroom because “you can digest in the information at your own paste.”

“Us as New York City Students deserve respect and encouragement,” one letter read. “We are the future of New York City and for some students, The future of the country.”

I doubt if that future will include business careers.

Party on, English teachers

2nd graders correct NFL players’ tweets

Second graders at Elmwood Franklin School in Buffalo “applied their lessons in proper sentence structure, noun and verb usage, spelling, and punctuation to correct the tweets of professional football players, posting their corrections on the school’s Facebook page. The most common mistake was the incorrect spelling of “a lot.”

The students corrected a tweet by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, who made headlines this week for an anti-gay remark, reports the Daily Caller.  Students fixed the spelling in “I pray to God I’m never dieing broke,” though they didn’t translate it to standard English: “I pray to God that I don’t die broke.”

Second Graders Correct Tweets From NFL Players And It's Magical

Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young also drew the students’ attention by tweeting: “It’s true I could be alot better, But wit the football.”

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker erred in a “Merry Christmas” message by adding: “My God bless you all!”

All three players are college graduates, according to the Daily Caller.

Wanted: A geezer with grammar skills

If you’re 70 or older, lucid and literate, there’s an (unpaid) job for you in Portland editing the autobiographical stories of a 79-year-old “geezer.”  Why the age requirement?

. . . I advertised before, received 117 responses. . .and NONE were sufficiently conversant with the English language to achieve an acceptable level of editing. It appears that a preponderance of younger people have not been taught correct grammar and satisfactory writing skills.

In addition to “possessing intimate knowledge and understanding of correct composition, grammar and punctuation,” he’s looking for someone who will work for satisfaction rather than money.

Why should those young punks learn to punctuate if there’s no money in it?

The ad was highlighted by Jim Romenesko, who also spotted Chicago Craigslist ad seeking a ghostwriter:

I would like to write a book, but find myself without the time or expertise to write it.

Age isn’t mentioned. (Neither is pay.) The successful applicant “must possess various abilities, powerful writing skills, knack for putting ideas together, experiences and information into words and can write about any topic.”

Punctuation Day winners!

The Exclamation Point! announces the 10 winners of the National Punctuation Day contest. The challenge was to use 13 punctuations marks in a short paragraph.

Sean Bradley of Dubuque, Iowa was succinct:

He said (to me): “Hey, Punk! You waitin’ for me to come over there and give you a lesson in good [expletive deleted] grammar?” I paused; my heart raced rat-a-tat-tat, but my voice – it just couldn’t find itself. Then, suddenly …

Demorah Hayes of Montgomery, Alabama let her imagination guide her:

If punctuation marks wore clothes, the comma would dress in brown — not rich, chocolate, winter-boots brown but faded, school-uniform khaki — and the ellipsis (remember those from Editing 101?) would wear a purple dress with oversized shades and sit alone sipping a martini,” said the founder of National Punctuation Day as she announced the day’s events to celebrate the “lowly comma . . . and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.” She was vague about the clothing choices of the question mark, suggesting that “the question mark is like the lady who changes [her dress] as the minutes tick by, with her husband yelling ‘late!’ as he slams the door.” She was more certain about the colon’s dress: monochromatic; balanced on top and bottom; and modest in size, color, and fit, as if to say, “look not at me but at what comes after me.”

Aubrey Gonzalez of Huntsville, Alabama wrote the best student entry:

As a student, I am often told by my English instructors (often—but not too often; I do get good grades in English [but not always, as I am merely human]) that my writing has some . . . “weaknesses” in punctuation: it’s rife with commas, inundated with brackets, and is distinctly lacking in
exclamation points. National Punctuation Day is an excellent excuse to correct my oft-paralyzing literary Achilles heel—punctuation—and appreciate the scope and subtleties of the powers of our brilliant ally, the English language! After all, what were such marvelous tools as punctuation marks crafted for, if not our use?

I’d take it easy on the exclamation points. They’re downing jello shots to get the courage to hit on that martini-sipping ellipse at the bar.


Punctuate properly!

National Punctuation Day, Sept. 24, will be honored with a Punctuation Paragraph Contest.

Write one paragraph, maximum of three sentences, using these 13 punctuation marks: apostrophe, brackets, colon, comma, dash, ellipsis, exclamation point, hyphen, parentheses, period, question mark, quotation mark, and semicolon. You may use a punctuation mark more than once.

The prize is “a box of punctuation goodies.”

Entries will be accepted at [email protected] through Sept. 30.

Subversion through punctuation

Teaching at a new high school, Miss Eyre defied the zeitgeist and dared to teach a lesson in writing mechanics.

I photocopied handouts with rules. I circled mistakes on students’ papers. I made them write down proper usages of punctuation marks. I did all that and so much more.

And it felt GOOD.

She might photocopy workbook exercises and make her students do them.

I know. I’m a terrible teacher. I’m supposed to assume that my students will magically figure out the rules of the conventions of the English language simply by being wide-eyed ingenues before the great literature of the world and writing about their lives, this despite the fact that relatively few of them have learned any great life lessons at their tender ages.

. . .  I have realized that teaching usage conventions the stupid way has produced, for me, fifteen-year-olds who can’t use commas properly and aren’t even sure what they are. So I’m going to teach them. Because that’s what I do. Ignorance is not bliss.

. . . Jeez, what will I do next? Make everyone in the class read the same story? Force kids not to copy research reports from Wikipedia? STOP ME BEFORE I TEACH AGAIN!

In an earlier post, she tries to persuade a dozing student that he won’t be able to go to college or get a good job if he never does any work in school.

You only have to graduate from high school to become a garbage man,” commented Hector, who sits behind Ross. “That’s what I’m going to do.”

What if the city isn’t able to hire as many trash collectors in the future?

“I’ll just live with my mom,” Hector said.
“Me too,” Ross added.
Mothers of New York City, Miss Eyre wants you to have a talk with your children: What are their plans for the future?

Punctuation haiku

In honor of National Punctuation Day, which is Sept. 24, Jeff Rubin is sponsoring a punctuation haiku contest. Send haiku to [email protected] by Sept. 30 to be considered for prizes.

Here are some sample haikus:

Serial comma.
What is your philosophy?
To use or not to?

Exclamation points
And question marks together?
Only in comics.

The apostrophe:
Found on both sides of letters.
The right side and wrong.

Here are some other ideas on how to celebrate National Punctuation Day.