On pause

On Twitter today, a page on colons & semicolons as pause indicators:

I don’t know why you’d teach colons and semicolons as pause indicators, let alone why you’d represent punctuation signs as musical notation. To teach punctuation, teach the clause. 

That said, writers can and do use punctuation marks to create a pause when they want one:


From Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Is “its” on it’s way out?

Here’s another candidate for a rule that will be gone in 20 years: the distinction between “its” and “it’s.” Everywhere, even in published material, the latter seems to be displacing the former.

And what with basal ganglia and contagious speech patterns, we’re probably all subconsciously learning to favor “it’s”. The more often we favor it (it’s), the more often we favor it.

One could even make a grammatical case for this displacement–one that doesn’t invoke the French! Possessive nouns get the apostrophe (“the cat’s pajamas”), so why not possessive pronouns*?

*In fact, we already have one pronoun that does get an apostrophe: “one”, as in “one should mind one’s ps and qs.”

While we’re on the subject of fading rules…

Another 20 years from now, comma splices won’t be comma splices.

They’ll just be commas.

That’s my prediction.

Twenty years from now comma splices will be correct because:

a) no one under the age of 30 (or thereabouts) knows what they are 
b) no one over the age of 30 (or thereabouts) has any idea how to teach them. 

Also, comma splices don’t exist in French.

French !

The French have a whole Académie dedicated to “fix[ing] the French language, giving it rules, rendering it pure and comprehensible by all,” yet they don’t have a rule that says Don’t use a comma to join two independent clauses.

Well, I say: If French people don’t have to care about comma splices, neither do we. 

And see:
Académie française
Participles that may be on their way out 

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.


“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.


And see: More fun with exclamation points