More fun with exclamation points, part 2

John Keilman, writing in the Chicago Tribune:

If you’re trying to get yourself uninvited from your Aunt Edith’s unbearable holiday fondue party, I suggest you try this trick: Send her a Christmas card that includes not one exclamation point.

Season’s greetings. All the best to you and the kids. Have a wonderful 2016.

I promise she will cut you from the guest list in a flash. After years of exclamation point creep, failing to use one in social and even business correspondence marks you as a frigid and aloof misanthrope without a drop of good fellowship.

[snip]

“An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes,” F. Scott Fitzgerald supposedly wrote in one withering and oft-cited maxim.

But in recent years, exclamation points have become an almost compulsory part of written communication. . . .

The marks have become so ubiquitous that leaving one out feels like a statement, even when none is intended. A just-published study of text messages, for example, found that texts ending with a simple period are more likely to be viewed as insincere.

Or, as a satirical story in The Onion put it: “In a diabolical omission of the utmost cruelty, stone-hearted ice witch Leslie Schiller sent her friend a callous thank-you email devoid of even a single exclamation point, sources confirmed Monday.”

Reading this, I was questioning whether anyone alive today actually has an Aunt Edith.

Looks like there are still a few of them around.

How_Many_of_Me_-_Census_Search_Results

And see: More fun with exclamation points

More fun with exclamation points

Disclosure: I am a person who, when texting, likes to use exclamation points.

Lots of exclamation points.

I like using question marks, too, especially question marks in conjunction with exclamation points.

e.g.:

WHAT???!!!!!

She *said* that???!!!

Out **loud**???!!!!

Good thing I don’t work for the FBI. *

Anyway, where exclamation points (and question marks) are concerned, I like to do exactly what everyone tells you not to do if you want to have a job or a life or the respect of people writing articles complaining about too many exclamation points.

Which brings me to my actual point: French people write exclamation points and question marks differently than we do.

Specifically, they leave a space between the end of the sentence and the mark.

Au secours !

Or:

Sauve qui peut !

I love that. (I love that!!!!)

Somehow, for me, the space between the words and the mark give the mark a dimension of poignancy it doesn’t have when it follows directly on the final letter. I don’t know why.

Poignancy or sobriety.

I’ve started leaving spaces, too.

I love that !!!!

Better, right ?

* It’s a really good thing. I once wrote a ticked-off email to a friend complaining about Ed refusing to sign off on my buying a new computer. He was cheap, I said. Then I sent the email to Ed, by mistake. I was in the room when he got it, and I still remember the look on his face.  

And see: More fun with exclamation points, part 2

Help desk

Here’s a question a friend just asked re: the following–

I live with my father in the summer, when I’m on vacation from school.

Why does that comma make sense?

The handbook rule (speaking of main and subordinate clauses) is that we use commas  when the subordinate clause introduces the main clause, but not when the subordinate clause follows the main clause:

I wake up early because I like to walk the dogs before I go to work.

Because I like to walk the dogs before I go to work, I wake up early.

The “I live with my father” sentence seems to break that rule, but it ‘sounds right,’ so the question is why is that.

Why does the comma after summer sound right?

My guess is that “when I’m on vacation from school” is functioning as a kind of nonrestrictive modifier–a parenthetical–but I’m no linguist … so we will await word from Katharine, who is.

UPDATE: Katharine says it’s nonrestrictive!

It’s a lot of fun having a friend who’s a linguist.

Punctuation isn’t grammar

From time to time, Katharine and I chat about the fact that most people don’t know what grammar actually is.

I certainly didn’t, not until I taught freshman writing and began reading grammar books.

Like virtually everyone else, I thought grammar was punctuation — punctuation and parts of speech. That was about as far as my K-12 education took me.1

These days I explain grammar to students this way:

If you learned every word in the French dictionary, you still wouldn’t know French because you wouldn’t know how to put the words together.

(I used to include an observation about dogs not having language, just words, but it looks like dogs may actually pick up some grammar, too.)

Putting French words together: that’s grammar.2

Putting an apostrophe between the ‘n’ and the ‘s’ in Gentlemen’s Outfitters: that’s punctuation.

A self-styled ‘grammar vigilante’ has revealed that he has spent years changing offending shop signs in the dead of night.

Wielding an ‘apostrophiser’ – a broom handle laden with two sponges and a number of stickers – the man has corrected tens of missing and misplaced apostrophes on shop banners across Bristol over the past 13 years.

The pedant, who is yet to reveal his identity, claims his efforts are needed to bring an end to the improper use of English. But critics suggest he should start with his own name – as apostrophes are strictly a matter of punctuation rather than grammar.

“I’m a grammar vigilante,” he told the BBC. “I do think it’s a cause worth pursuing. I have felt extremely nervous. The heart has been thumping.”

[snip]

Jason Singh, 42, who owns the tailors Tux & Tails, claims that he potentially faces paying thousands of pounds for his sign to be corrected.

The issue, the omission of an apostrophe in “Gentlemens”, has been corrected with what appears to be two blobs of paint, or stickers, that do not sit well with the newly-fitted vinyl.

“I did take it lightly at first, but now I’m a little angry to be honest,” he said. “We think it’s paint, and this is vinyl, so if we have to replace it you’re looking at a few thousand pounds. I understand, but at the end of the day I’d have preferred him to come in and tell me.

“I think it could be considered rather rude. I think there might even be grounds for a police complaint, and if his name is revealed, I’ll be sending him an invoice for the damages.”

However, the vigilante has defended the legality of his work, telling reporters that some of the mistakes he redresses are “just wrong” and that “it’s more of a crime to have apostrophes wrong in the first place”.

Melania Branton, a poet from North Somerset, said that whoever the ‘grammar vigilante’ turns out to be “must be wincing at the misnomer, as punctuation isn’t grammar”.

Revealed: Self-styled ‘grammar vigilante’ corrects badly punctuated shop signs in dead of night

1. I also learned the terms simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex — but, when I began teaching, I discovered that I didn’t actually know what those terms meant. 
2. It isn’t grammar, it’s syntax. Grammar includes the rules for putting morphemes together to form words. But same principle. (Comma splice intentional.)