If you forget to use commas (or are the unfortunate subject of a cover story edited by Cro-Magnons), snide bloggers will tell the world that you like to eat your family and your dog. An embarrassment no matter how expertly prepared the meal.
I love it when I see two of my favorite things put together. In this case: proper punctuation and going out for Japanese.
For more on how to use the semicolon, please see the Oatmeal’s summary lesson.
For another pleasing paring, watch the okonomiyaki robot in action. Okonomiyaki, a type of Japanese omelette-pancake, roughly translates to “your favorites, grilled.” Try not to drool; he might short circuit.
I love the taste of egg and innovation.
I recently got a software upgrade for my piece of shit phone from Verizon. The upgrade did nothing to address the irritating little problem that causes the phone to spontaneously shut off. It did, however, randomize all my photos and change, of all things, the order of operations in predictive text. Moreover, it dissed the comma, one of my top five favorite punctuation marks.
It’s not enough that I have to unwire the muscle memory that I’ve developed using T9 for years, I’m also dealing with the conspicuous short-shrifting of the trusty comma. Once just a single “Next” press after the default period, the comma is now a full five keystrokes down the line, after the @ sign, question mark, exclamation point and hyphen, in that order.
The comma is oft unappreciated, but to be considered inferior to the @ sign and the hyphen? A second class citizen, just one step up from an ampersand? It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.
Commas make your text(s) more readable. And they make you look smarter. (Bonus!) This is a call to action, folks. Don’t forsake the comma. Keep ‘em coming, please.
Now I’ll return to quietly seething. Thank you.
I’d like to draw your attention today to Breakup Letter, Dramatic Reading, which features, as you may have guessed, a dramatic reading of a breakup letter (below), originally posted on Craigslist. It may be familiar to many of you. If you haven’t been to the site you must go. If you have, it’s time to go back. Brought to us by the gents behind You’re the Man Now, Dog (ytmnd.com), this gem in the crown of Internet forwards is more than a hilarious three-minute diversion. It’s an allegory of a world without grammar lessons. A cold, dark place where there’s never time to pause for breath and everyone sounds like a foreigner on uppers.
The link takes you straight to the audio of the reading, so if you’re at work, pop in them headphones:
Please, if you ever have a moment when you’re wondering why it matters where that comma goes, just think of this letter… and of the children.
(apologies for the soft focus)
We’ve all witnessed the quaint misuse of quotation marks for emphasis. As reader Mike suggested previously, “Like when you go to a restaurant that promises ‘excellent service’ and they put it in quotes.” What I really love about this sign at the DMV on 34th street is not just that it employs CAPS and quotes to stress the word “your,” but that it stresses the word “your” at all. Who else’s application would I be completing and/or signing?
Seriously. I get that they want people to take care of the paperwork before (Before) getting to the front of the line — I’ve seen how this system functions. What I don’t get is why the authors of this notice were compelled to place such import on “your.”
“Well, I think the main thing is that people need to get this shit done before they get to the front of the line.”
“Dude, forget front of the line, they need to get that shit done before they even come over here.”
“Plus, they need to be taking care of their own shit. No more of this coming over here with some other guy’s half-finished application. That really gets my goat.”
“OK, so we’ll underline ‘your’ and ‘before.’”
“We can underline ‘before,’ but we gotta do more with ‘your.’ This is too important. I say make it all uppercase.”
“Yeah! And put it on its own line!”
“For sure! And put quotation marks around it!”
“This sign rules!”
Yeah, that’s probably how it happened. Also, I dig that they maintained initial capitalization throughout. Here’s to consistency in the face of utter nonsense.
In case we hadn’t beaten the apostrophe discussion to death, here’s an illustrated guide to proper usage from the guys over at TheOatmeal.com, a site full of quizzes and comics with (often misleadingly) clever titles.
It pretty much covers all apostrophal eventualities. One thing I’d like to add to the it(’)s question: think of the possessive “its” like “his” or “hers.” Those possessive pronouns don’t have apostrophes either. Neato!
Have grammar or punctuation quandaries of your own? You’re not alone. If you’re unsure, then others probably are, too. (Extensive market research of both this blog’s readers indicate that whoever you are, you’re most likely wicked smart.) Feel free to email the Unhappy Mediator with questions and maybe we can all learn something.
Meantime, click the apostrophe chart on the right, or visit the original at apostrophe.me
ps. I second that –>
In light of the recent post on rules of writing, how about some real life examples of what not to do?
We’ve all seen our fair share of misplaced apostrophes hanging around in plural words, like this one, here, on a note in my apartment building:
(I see another resident has his eyes on proofreading, a kindred word nerd in Alphabet City.) But this one spotted in Williamburg, BK, is truly creative in its positioning:
I’ve seen “your” for “you’re” and vice versa. But the “you’r” iteration is new to me. Clever, no?
Now allow me to pass the mic to Drew, author of my favorite web comic, toothpastefordinner.com…