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What your punctuation (and writing style) “says” about you!

April 12, 2009

I was teasing my co-worker the other day, because I was reviewing some copy on our website, and it just had a ton of “em dashes” which she uses more than any other person I have ever met. (In fact, I never even knew what an em dash was, until “smart quotes” and html teamed up to drive me crazy.) So, while I was teasing her, I realized that most people and writers I know have their own punctuation quirks. I have realized that I have a love affair with parentheses (believe me, I go back after every blog post and re-phrase as many sentences as I can, and yet still – parentheses – and as I am writing this, I just realized I am writing in between a parathensis. Damnit! I am leaving it. In fact, I will not go back and edit any of my punctuation in this post.)

It got me started thinking about why, whenever I write, whether it’s professional or personal, I rely heavily on parentheticals to help me get my point across.  And then it hit me, when I was writing my post about my lack of communication skills that I generally can’t keep my mind to one train of thought, so maybe I use my parantheses as an aside, in order to get people information that they may need, without breaking my train of thought? It’s pretty lazy, and shows some sort of lack of skill at organization and thinking clearly, but I still love them.  So, my inability to focus may explain my constant clauses. I also wonder if its a way to get some sort of “insider” status.  Like, for example, this is the text where I am explaining something (but don’t worry – between you and me, this is the “real deal” and my inner thoughts) and I want another voice to connect to the reader. I am some sort of scatterbrained Sybil.

So, if parantheses means I am insane, what do other people’s quirks mean about them? And I am not referring to bad grammar (although, I wonder if that has a meaning behind it as well?) In  marketing, we often bold words on a webpage or communication, because we know people are skimming, and want them to get the main point. But I often notice people doing it on blog posts (myself included) and it drives me crazy. If I assume people are skimming, then why am I catering to that on a personal blog? It has no SEO value, but maybe it just helps to break up a wall of text? But if you are writing walls of text that aren’t interesting, why  not focus more on that, then bolding keywords? (I just realized I am asking a lot of questions. Do I normally do this, or is the style of this post questioning? Or maybe I am just soliciting comments?)

Other people love “quoting for emphasis.” I wonder if these are the same people that use air quotes. Is this just a lazy way of calling attention to something without bolding? Could the sentence be constructed better without having to literally and physically set a word apart? There are those who love em and regular dashes – do they just not want to lose your attention, so they find a way to make non-run-on sentences? (Would they like my parantheses better?) I also tend to overuse exclamation points! It’s like I am channeling a 7th grade cheerleader and making sure I “speak with a smile!”

I am also not referring to common grammar mistakes (not typos) that drive me crazy, although I do wonder about why people make these mistakes to. I refuse to believe that 70% of the country called in sick the day we learned about possesive’s, and yet people like to put apostrophe’s at the end of every word that ends in “s”.  It drive’s me crazy (although I still can’t entirely get my head around when to use its and it’s).  But why people can’t figure out when to use the word for the numeral 2 and when two use the word that means “also” (man, I am so cracking me up with this paragraph).

Do you have a punctuation quirk? Does it say anything insightful about you?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Ronald Parks permalink
    April 12, 2009 10:36 am

    My Technical Writing teacher. She told me. I write in Tarzan speak. What is that? Never wrote un-gowa in a paper. Oh well.

  2. April 12, 2009 11:28 am

    I use semicolons a lot; I wonder what that says about me? Perhaps that I like having related ideas connected to each other, or that I read too much Patrick O’Brian during my formative years as a writer. I overuse dashes as well.

  3. April 13, 2009 10:36 am

    Oh Lord, you’ve struck a nerve with me. Ever since I’ve been in recruiting, I’ve become a grammar/spelling freak. And I KNOW that I am not perfect and make plenty of mistakes such as crazy long sentences that should clearly be broken up in to at least 2 shorter ones. 🙂

    But at my first temp job out here in CA, I reviewed resumes. TONS of them. And it pissed me off to the point where I was bustin’ out the red pen and circling things that were wrong. My boss said, “Meredith you are NOT an English teacher,” but still appreciated my efforts.

    I’m sorry, but if you can’t spell the name of the street you live on, or the school you went to or the classes you took…I’m not going to trust you to deal with other people’s money (I was working for a bank at the time).

    My favorite was the resume from someone who went school (in PhEOnix, AZ – ugh) to be a Medical Assistant and listed all the classes she took. She couldn’t spell phlebotomy (and yes, I just double checked that on dictionary.com). If you can’t spell it, I don’t want you doing it to me! YIKES!

    OK, long rambly comment done. And I’m paranoid that I have some horrific typo or error in here (that I have not addressed) and will get flamed for. 🙂

    PS – Parenthesis are AWESOME.

  4. ingredientx permalink
    April 13, 2009 2:14 pm

    I used to use a lot of parentheses and semicolons, until I realized that those adorable subclauses should really have their own sentences. Hopefully my writing’s more clear now.

    I still probably use more commas than I should. Also, I still let the occasional split infinitive or dangling participle through, but I understand that people are more relaxed about things like that in these enlightened times.

  5. April 13, 2009 3:29 pm

    I love the elipse…it shows where I pause when I talk, even though I should probably put a period. I have been working to minimize my use of parentheses as well, but find them very useful at times (particularly to clarify the idea or point I am trying to get across).

  6. April 13, 2009 8:53 pm

    I read this right before I wrote my last post. I over-analyzed every punctuation mark! I, too, am a huge fan of the ellipsis…

  7. April 13, 2009 9:23 pm

    I use parentheses and em dashes a bunchies – as evidenced by this. I don’t even think it’s grammatically correct (and I really don’t care).

    I would like to know what my blog tells you about who I am.

    Although, you do know me very well, so maybe it won’t give you any additional insight. I don’t know.

    This comment is of no importance. Move along now.

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