Punctuation Sticklers Unite

You see a sign on a store window. “Come inside,” it says, “for CD’s, VIDEO’s, DVD’s, and BOOK’s.”

Your reaction is  A) So what?   B) You see this satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes and it causes a gasp of horror.

This post is for those who answered "B."

As Lynne Truss writes in Eats, Shoots & Leaves, those who answer "A" should congratulate themselves for not being a pedant or even a stickler and continue to live in a world of plummeting punctuation standards.

"For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word “Book’s” with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker."

The book was an unlikely bestseller in both the UK & US. The title of her book is explained in this brief story.

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

So punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

You should give her online punctuation game a try. I did not do as well as I expected on it and only received a "stickler" rating.

In this time of text messages, microblogs, and Tweets, it's tough to be a punctuation stickler. Take a look at this excerpt from Eats, Shoots & Leaves and you'll get a sense at the humorous approach of the book. 

Remember that sentence that someone used at a workshop and asked you to punctuate?


Supposedly, the women in the room will write something like Woman: without her, man is nothing. The men will counter with Woman, without her man, is nothing. The sticklers start talking about woman versus women and the arguing begins.

I also recall this workshop classic. Separate the words in this sentence: Thejobsarenowhere.

Most people go with "The jobs are nowhere." Ah, that's because of all the negativity in the financial world, otherwise, they would have gone with "The jobs are now here."

I really enjoyed teaching the novella Flowers for Algernon (made into the film Charly). Charlie tries to impress his teacher by asking her to make sense of: that that is is that that is not is not is that all that is all

Then he does his revision to show her:  That that is, is. That that is not, is not. Is that all? That is all.

Of course, the greatest danger in writing a post like this is that some pedant will find a punctuation or grammatical error in it and smugly post a comment. Luckily, I can edit the post quite easily, and I can even delete the comment. Error? What error?  I do love revisionist history.


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