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Struggle with Punctuation? Join the Club

A few weeks ago during lunch with my friend and co-writer/editor Amy De La Hunt we somehow got on the topic of punctuation and grammar. Actually, I know how we got on the topic; because she’s an editor, she’s my go to girl for lamenting the truly, truly awful slide away from proper grammar/punctuation towards the ‘who gives a darn’ English we’re now writing and reading. And actually, since I’m being honest, it wasn’t really a conversation…it was more of a monologue/tangent Amy was enduring.

Improper punctuation has become the commonplace.

Check status updates, check your email. Heck, even check the press. We’ve gotten lazy and inattentive with the written word (when did a period and a comma become one and the same?) and it’s driving me bonkers. BONKERS!

Over the weekend we celebrated National Punctuation Day. Miss it, did you? Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin (bless you, Mr. Rubin!), the day is celebrated each September 24th and is meant to promote correct usage and application of spelling and punctuation. Makes me kinda breathless just thinking of it.

Brief lesson: In grade school, we teach your little ones spelling and grammar. Often it’s put under a fancy pants umbrella like Communication Arts, or in Missouri, Language Arts. You know what spelling is, but grammar can get a bit confusing. Basically, grammar instruction includes a body of rules about how sentences and phrases are constructed in the English language, such as punctuation, parts of speech, etc. Although rule based, and therefore sometimes confusing, the reality is most native English speaking children enter kindergarten already knowing  80% of these rules because they speak them; we can teach children to apply logic to their grammar lessons, such as subject/verb agreement, by having them listen to themselves speak the words.  The 20% they don’t know? You guessed it….punctuation.

Because punctuation isn’t spoken but used in the written word, it somehow gets kids (and adults) all frazzled up.  I suppose the frazzling can also be attributed to the plethora of rules that are punctuation. Even I don’t remember them all, which is why I’m such good friends with Amy. After all, how can you not adore someone who cleans up your writing junk and keeps you from looking like a doffus?

I'm not going to badger you with a top five mistakes in punctuation list, or fuss about our slipping grip on writing instruction. Today, I’m going to give you an awesome belated gift for Punctuation Day: Grammar Girl, aka Mignon Fogarty, author of bestseller “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing”, a handy book to help the grammar challenged. (She’s also the author of several other similar books, all worth a peek.) But you don’t have to fumble through the book to get at the punctuation stuff. Bookmark this page and you’ll have immediate access to all the ampersand and comma splice advice you’ll ever need. Go ahead and bookmark it on your kids’ computer too.

Because I know I’ll get grief for it in some form if I don’t, I’d like to acknowledge the creative liberty I take with punctuation as an author.  Yes, perhaps I lean on semi colons now and again. Sometimes, I’ll admit, my writing resembles an ellipse-o-rama.  Maybe  I intentionally write an incomplete sentence for emphasis. In my defense, I’d like to say it is only because I know the rules (mostly) to begin with that I can play around with punctuation like I do.  

Right, Amy?


By Sharon Linde, Education Blogger for SmartParenting.