Take a Punctuation Mark to Lunch

Question Mark

A comma, a period and a semicolon walk into a bar … oh, wait! I can’t finish the joke; I forget how it’s punctuated.

Wow, tough crowd.

But punctuation’s no joke, my friends—each punctuation mark has a grave (or acute) purpose: sometimes bearing a serious slant, sometimes swinging a strong, straight shoulder to torque the weight of words through thought rivers. Think of the cymbal crash of the exclamation point, the yearning intrigue of the question mark, the potential hidden menace of the semicolon.

But behind the sober, workaday faces of those little bits of pause and check, it’s not so black and white. Every punctuation mark has its own personality, much more idiosyncratic than that of a bland worker wielding the traffic signals of sentence flow. Like any of us, they appreciate the anonymity of a job well done, but at the same time, they don’t mind letting on that there’s a purple sash under the white cotton shirt …

But if you want to fully know the compelling reasons why you should take your favorite punctuation mark to lunch, you’ll have to go over to Writer Unboxed, where I finish up this exposé on both the sappy and the sordid aspects of those tricky lines, dots, slashes and dashes.