Every so often, I read stuff that is badly worded or badly punctuated. The former tells me about error, the latter tells me about ignorance. I worry alot more about the latter.
Punctuation aids sense. It is a teaching tool that tells us not so much what is being written, but how best to read it.
In a world of texting and dictation, however, punctuation is a dying art and it is a shame because it has played a vital part in world history and continues to do so.
It was the comma strike in Tsarist Russia in 1905 that forced through the first Russian constitution, for instance. One wonders if there might not be a further punctuation mark to bring Mr Putin to heel. There are certaily plenty of semi-retired bits of punctaution that could be summoned up to cause a fuss. In the last 30 years, long abandoned squiggles have been re-purposed and re-named. So today, the ubiquitous octothorpe and the arabesque dominate texting (I cannot find the hashtag on my computer so rely on copying and pasting) and, therefore, modern communication. In Greek, the arabesque is called “the little duck” like the plastic device that fits over the bowl and squirts blue liquid into the loo. Vincent Price would have had a field day.
I love punctaution that tells me how to read aloud. The comma used, in other words, as cantillation. It has a long histiory going back to manuscripts of the Torah and both mediaeval and Byzantine psalmody. As a rule of thiumb, when I see a comma coming, I get ready for a quick intake of breath.
The finality of a full stop, on the page if not in the recording studio, can also signal irritation or an over-zealous authority. Today, I received a letter full of curt instructions and peppered with full-stops. Amost spat out at me. In contrast, there are people who seem afraid of the full-stop entirely and it has disappeared in some instances. It would be pedantic to complain or re-insert. It is now missing, for example, from many abbreviations and acronyms. “OK” rarely receives its full stops (it is short for “Ola Kala”, all is well, so it should have full-stops). “Haha” is rarely punctauted. This is the “lol”version, not the enchanted garden deceit.Whatever happened to S.W.A.L.K.? Incidentally, there should never have been a full-stop after “A”.
As a fan of John Milton, I have long recognised that Capitals are decorative. Maube it is time to concede that punctuation is, too.