Thursday, September 24, 2009

National Punctuation Day

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Today is the day to celebrate commas, semicolons, em dashes, ellipses and all those other little marks whose proper use continues to give most of us headaches.

Do I hear some of you mumbling, “Why do we need a National Punctuation Day?”

I think the following example, thanks to, will demonstrate how much we take these little characters for granted and how important they truly are.

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?

Move the punctuation a tad and you have…

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

So now that you understand the need to celebrate, you are probably wondering how. Jeff Rubin, on his aptly named site, National Punctuation Day, has come to the rescue. According to him, the following are the appropriate activities for this momentous occasion:
Sleep late.
Take a long shower or bath.
Go out for coffee and a bagel (or two).
Read a newspaper and circle all of the punctuation errors you find (or think you find, but aren’t sure) with a red pen.
Take a leisurely stroll, paying close attention to store signs with incorrectly punctuated words.
Stop in those stores to correct the owners.
If the owners are not there, leave notes.
Visit a bookstore and purchase a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.
Look up all the words you circled.
Congratulate yourself on becoming a better written communicator.
Go home.
Sit down.
Write an error-free letter to a friend.
Take a nap. It has been a long day.

Be sure to visit his site for more information on this day and to buy punctuation gifts for your loved ones.

If you’re still are not sure we need a special day set aside to honor punctuation, I’ll leave you with one more case in point from a post on

“For example, Truss publishes an item on a restaurant menu gone wrong. What was supposed to be "Goat Cheese Salad ... tomato, onions, goat cheese" turned into something else entirely with a couple of extra s's and an erroneous additional comma: "Goats Cheese Salad ... tomatoes, onions, goats, cheese."

Best wishes for a happy National Punctuation Day. Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: F. Scott Fitzgerald, National Punctuation Day, Jeff Rubin,


kathy said...

I love this! I'm going to share the example with my classes.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is wonderful! I'll let my dad know (English professor.)

Mystery Writing is Murder

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Okay, that error-free letter to a friend might be pushing it for me! LOL

Karen Walker said...

Still chuckling....

Carol Kilgore said...

This is great! I'm going out in a bit, but I think I'll refrain from calling any errors to a shopkeeper's attention. This is Texas, after all. No telling what he has behind the counter.

Helen Ginger said...

Contrary to Fitzgerald, I always laugh at my own jokes. If I don't, who will?

Fun post, Jane. We definitely should celebrate punctuation, at least once a year.

Straight From Hel

Galen Kindley--Author said...

When I got to the part in your post where you said something like, “Let’s take a look as some examples,” I cringed, because I just knew, one or more of my comments was gonna be highlighted. The degree of illiteracy I sometimes exhibit is, in fact, hilarious. So, Before I grow up, I’m gonna learn and practice the rules of punctuation. Really…and next week, I’m gonna lose weight and grow hair.

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Elspeth Antonelli said...

This is hilarious! I love the example. I've another for you. A stockbroker received a telegram concerning a stock purchase which read: "No price to high." The broker bought the stock. The customer was furious. The broker showed him the telegram. A period was missing. It was supposed to read: "No. Price too high." Oops.


JennyMac said...

the rewrite was classic...

poor punctuation, (and grammar...and spelling) top my list of peeves.

Great post Jane!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Kathy and Elizabeth, I’m glad you found the post useful.

Diane, I’d find an error free letter hard to write too, but I assume my friends wouldn’t point out my errors - especially if they wanted to hear from me again.

Glad to add a chuckle to your day, Karen.

Carol, I live in Florida so I do understand not wanting to take any chances with what might be behind the counter.

I tend to laugh at my own jokes, too, Helen.

Galen, I’d be the last person on earth to use someone else’s work as an example when there is so much of my own available with blatant boo boos. I do wish I’d paid more attention in school.

Elspeth, love your funny example. What a difference a period makes!

Thanks, JennyMac. I loved that rewrite, too.

Carol Kilgore said...

Jane, could be a shotgun. Could be a pit bull. I'd as soon not come face to face with either.

thetruebookaddict said...

Although I missed the day, I so enjoyed your post! I should send that letter (the second one) to my husband...LOL!

Marvin D Wilson said...

Good example and post. To comma or not to comma is ALWAYS the big question!

Love the Fitzgerald quote! Gonna tweet that one.

The Old Silly

Anna said...

Hi, Jane (or anyone else who may know),

I am an English teacher for FY comp., and I am looking for the classic example of punctuation- gone-wrong. I remember reading a telegraph/gram in one of my English classes from a colonel to his troops. He used one punctuation mark incorrectly, and the troops either attacked when they weren't supposed to or didn't attack when they were supposed to. Does anyone know where I can find this? It's a great example for class!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Anna, thanks for stopping by. I do not know about the example you mentioned, but if I ever run across it, I'll let you know. I'd love to find it to use in next year's Nat'l Punctuation Day post.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world