I went down to town today, did a dryer-full of laundry, and spent 20 minutes (while folding my clothes) reading a sign that nearly drove me nuts. If there had been an employee of the motor lodge present, I would have seriously considered punching them out.


Maybe I’m over-reacting. But don’t we teach punctuation in our schools anymore? It seems our educational establishment is trying to create a bunch of young Trump supporters. Talk about working against their own self-interest!

How many times have you known people who are clueless about the different meanings of “their,” “there,” and they’re?”

Or seen the apostrophe misused in a way akin to a fingernail scratching a blackboard? The rules are pretty simple. To make a word plural, you add an “s” to it. To make a word possessive, you add an apostrophe, as in “my son’s book.” To make a plural noun ending in “s” possessive, you need only add the apostrophe, as in “my sons’ books.” You don’t use apostrophes to pluralize acronyms and abbreviations, such as CEOs and DVDs. And the plurals of numbers do not use apostrophes. It’s 1970s, not 1970’s.

People probably have more trouble with the semicolon than with any other punctuation mark. Yet high school students are taught a simple rule of thumb that’s often forgotten over time (if it’s ever absorbed in the first place): A semicolon should be used to separate two independent clauses (or complete sentences) that are closely related in meaning. Use colons, not semicolons, before a list of three or more items. And when items in a series themselves contain commas, separate them with semicolons. For example, you’d write: We visited Miami, Florida; Austin, Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

But what drives me nuts about the above sign is not just that there’s no period after “closed,” but the insertion of a totally meaningless comma… as well as the reality that keeping the door closed keeps as many flies in as out.


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2 Responses to “punchuation”

  1. 1 matt
    July 21, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I have a fond memory of trying to explain homophones (there, their, and they’re) to a Japanese lady friend.

  2. July 22, 2016 at 1:04 am

    Other country, other tongue, same concern. I’m often appalled when I read what is posted in the social media. “Ces”, “ses”, “c’est” and “sait” are phonetically identical but their meanings are totally different (these, his, this is and knows). What worries me the most is that those who make the most mistakes of this kind aren’t necessarily the youngest people. What worries me also is that they are not likely to learn anything by reading the writings of their elders. Facebook and other social media are good machines to unlearn the little they have assimilated in attending school.

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