K. M. Weiland had a poll on her blog last week, asking readers to choose their favorite punctuation mark. Neither the ampersand nor the parenthesis was listed, so I had to choose “other” (and thankfully did not have to choose between the two). And I was thinking, you know, nobody really shows love to ampersands or parentheses, and they totally deserve it. Which got me to thinking also of the Oxford comma, which I will forever embrace until my dying breath.
Awhile ago, in my post Why I Write, my Reason #1 was that I love words. Well, I also love punctuation. I have my pets, and my tics, and so does everyone. For awhile I overused the semicolon (and perhaps I still do). I know I overuse em-dashes and parentheses. I don’t really feel the exclamation point. I mean, it’s okay, but if I overuse it, I’m making fun of overusing it, like this!!!!
In “public” writing, I usually (but not always, as you can see) try to restrain my use of parentheses. They are divine, especially for people like me who have ADD of the mouth and like to go off on tangents while talking/writing (would that be ADD of the typing, too?) (At any rate, I’m scattered sometimes, whether talking or writing). Parentheses don’t often show up in my fiction. Where you’ll mostly find them is in my emails and diary. Love these guys. How can you not? Their curvature, their symmetry, their absolute usefulness.
There are some humorous examples of ambiguity resulting from the practice of not using the Oxford comma, also called the serial comma, and some humorous examples (less compelling to moi) of ambiguity arising from its use (see this Wikipedia entry for lots of information on the beloved Oxford comma). While I try not to be a prescriptivist, here I must say, I was taught to use the Oxford comma, and I like it, and I believe, in most cases, it can help eliminate ambiguity. Plus, it just sounds right. It’s fun, it’s practical, and it was part of my grammatical upbringing. (See how the second comma, the beautiful lovely industrious Oxford comma, is a natural part of the pause in the previous sentence? Yes, I think you do. You must.)
I love this one so much, it gets an ode:
Which punctuation marks do you tend to overuse? Which are your favorite? Have you ever written a love poem for a punctuation mark? Do share!!!!