Monthly Archives: September, 2009

My Favorite Punctuation Poem So Far!

Ode to Em—

As you dash about, I admire how
Straight, crisp and lean you look;
And whether before, after, or between
Your words, phrases, and clauses—
You create bold—almost brash—pauses.
Your sharp, double-sided sword either
Interrupts, explains, or provides a crisp refrain—

Your more subdued and delicate cousin Comma,
More delicately shapes her conversational stance.
With a classic hook, an almost unstated elegance,
She crooks her tiny tea cup drinking finger and smiles,
While you slash and grin like a pirate defending his men.
On all matters of meaning, movement, and patterns.

Sandra Ridpath

Gotta Love Those Semicolons

The semicolon is an underappreciated and underused (okay, often misused) punctuation mark. This author, via the inimitable Grammar Girl, compares the poor forsaken semicolon to so many of us who are lucky in cards, as they say.

Dear Semicolon

Dear Semicolon,
My sweet misunderstood darling,
I swear that even in times when
It feels the whole world has turned
Against you,
My love will not falter.

How many times,
Before we met, did I question
Whether to use a comma or a period?
Those were the lost times,
Before knowledge of you graced my life.
Where have you been all my life?
Was my thought. But you had been waiting
Patiently below my little finger,
Which was too timid to touch you.

You were everything I was looking for.
For years, I had wanted to
Link two stand-alone sentences,
To show that they depend on each other,
Though they stand alone.

But my love for you, sweet Semicolon,
Goes beyond the basic need for you
And relief at finding you.
I am in love with your very essence, purpose.
You join two sentences,
Which are independent, and make
Them stronger by bringing them together,
Much like love itself joins two people,
Who are independent and
Yet somehow belong together,
Are better together.

Your devoted lover,
Connie Fusedwriter

Célèste Brott

Even More Fun with Punctuation!

Today, Grammar Girl posted the winner of her punctuation contest.

The Exclamation Point!

The exclamation point is greatly overused!
One could even say it is frequently abused!
In advertising copy, it repeatedly resounds!
And in breathless prose, it literally abounds!
The poorer the writer, the more frequently the case!
The exclamation point, they readily embrace!
To give a little emphasis! To make a little point!
This punctuation mark they will appoint!
But, to make emphasis perfectly clear,
Good writers generally appear
to make little use of exclamations
and other such typographic affectations.

—Ed Truitt

More Fun with Punctuation

An Ode To The Semicolon

The simple thoughts of children need only simple punctuation.
A sentence with one verb, one noun, for every situation.
“I want a cookie.” “She hit me!” “When are we going to eat?”
These subject/object pairings up express these thoughts complete.

As we mature our thoughts do too, become harder to express.
Complexity increases, stacked more and more, not less.
“Optic blasts are awesome, but adamantium claws are better.”
“Should I call up Mary Lou, or send an e.mail letter?”

Related concepts bloom within, so quickly they do roll on,
To show they’re separate (but connected), apply the semicolon.
The sentences could stand apart, but linking them together
Allows the thought to seamlessly express itself much better.

“We danced all night; it was divine.” describes one case in point.
The first and second halves of which each other do anoint.
“We danced all night. It was divine.” How choppy and how stilted!
Without the semicolon how the narrative gets wilted!

Conditional or adverse, it supports concept relations,
O semicolon praise we all, the best of all notations!

Tony Noland

Fun with Punctuation

Thursday is National Punctuation Day. I am teaching my sophomore about compound and complex sentences, which involve lots of commas and semicolons. I must work these in somehow!

Ode to the Comma

The female body part of punctuation,
So tiny, yet able to arouse such aggravation.
The comma slips in under the quotation,
Tells you when to pause for reflection,
Then plunge ahead to the period’s conclusion.
Neglect it at your peril: accusations,
law suits, wars. Nations
fall. Pretend it doesn’t exist at all? Risk condemnation.
Treat it right for absolution.
That’s right, put it there: Yes, oh, yes . . . satisfaction.

Stacey Harwood

Which letter would you rather receive?
Dear John
—Gloria Rosenthal

Why punctuation is important to one’s sex life:

1. Pre-marital sex: What some people have before marriage.
2. Extra marital sex: What some people have in a happy marriage.
3. Extra-marital sex: What people have in a not-so-happy marriage.

If you’re having a lot of #3, you’re probably not having a lot of #2. It all depends where you place the hyphen.

—Jeff Rubin, founder of National Punctuation Day

Down with “IDK”

As a high school English teacher, and particularly one of composition, I see more writing over the course of a week than you can imagine. Stacks and stacks of paragraphs have grown into piles of five-paragraph essays. The teacher’s edition of my grammar workbook is smudged with black fingerprints from where I got carried away with my whiteboard markers. All of this serves my school’s English department, where the goal is to instruct systematically, demand perfection, and churn out good writers.

The author and quoted professors in this San Diego Union-Tribune article I found via the NCTE Inbox newsletter would probably accept graduates of my school with open arms. I have had students write “idk” (in all lowercase, of course) in response to questions. I have had them fill half a page with, “Well………um…….I don’t really know what to write about…..,” and be surprised to see my purple correcting pen slash the paper to bits. I have had students argue with me over the necessity of answering questions in complete sentences. Then again, I have also been in a 300-level college class with an English major who couldn’t punctuate dialogue. It’s moments like the latter that make me take another look at my grammar book, resign myself to plowing through it, and try to think up vaguely hip examples of elliptical clauses.

More Gems from My Students

With new students come more amusing moments. It’s like Overheard in My Classroom (or read on their papers…).

Vocab sentences:
“The teacher was so mad when she found out her favorite student’s paper was a duplicity.”
“What I noticed about the new teacher is that she gave a very cursory look at our papers.” (My reply: Oh, really? ;) )

Student: Are you going to the game tonight?
Me: Yes.
Student: Are you going to wear your real hair?
Me: It’s not that it’s fake sometimes; I just wear it up.

When I dropped my grade book on the floor: “Fumble!” Must be football Friday.

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