Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blinking Cursor

Staring at my computer monitor for the last few minutes made me realize two things: one, I have no idea what I want to write about today and two, I’m really spaced out. I must have slept in too long.

And the cursor blinks.

Then something hit me, and that is the use of proper grammar and punctuation. In school we were taught about the colon and semicolon and dashes and dots and so forth and it was rather vague and seemed more like an afterthought; more like, “Here are these punctuations blah blah blah… we never use them.” Something was amiss here. Were these forms of punctuation not worthy of our attention? Is their proper placement and use out of fashion, so to speak? I decided to investigate.

A majority of the books I read as a kid failed to use colons, semicolons and dashes, but some used the ellipses (also known as ‘dot dot dot’ and ‘three dots’), which probably explains my overuse and abuse of the punctuation. What can I say… I like me some triple dots. I can blame R.L. Stine, writer of the Fear Street series I was ever so fond of in my youth, for my reasoning behind not being indoctrinated into proper English grammar; however, I must also accept that these forms of punctuation were rarely used or explained in my language arts classes.

Reasoning aside, here is my thought on the matter: the semicolon is seen as a high and mighty college-educated comma. Be that as it may, I’ve found myself using it more and more instead of either starting a new sentence. Trust me, I know my run-on sentences can get a little carried away, especially when I am on a rather heated rant about something I am quite passionate about; but that doesn’t mean I need to force the reader to swallow an entire sentence all at once because of my unwavering thought process instead of splitting it into two or three smaller and more manageable sentences.

With all this being said, I don’t expect any blog I read to have proper grammar and punctuation because they are just that: blogs. However, I do expect our published books, literature, magazines and newspapers to at least have a slight understanding of the language. It irks me to no end when I read something that looks so sloppily put together a third grader can tell you what is wrong with the sentence and how to fix it. I must say that a majority of this is our accepted use of numbers and shorthand in our everyday correspondences through text messages, emails and chatting is probably the biggest downfall of language in general. Maybe I’m being too judgmental, but I know that when I see a message with misspelled words and no punctuation in all lower case, I have to mentally fix the message before my brain can process it. Okay, so I admit that I’m a little quirky like that, but the fact still remains that we as a society are at risk of losing proper communication skills in order to focus on trade skills in our schools. I am all for kids learning math and science, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of language and culture. I don’t expect every kid to know how to spell, but allowing them to use numbers or letters in place of the full and correct word is only exasperating the problem.

I suppose the real issue lies in our ever-changing language uses. It is only natural for a language to evolve over time to reflect cultural norms of the day, but taking out all structure and etiquette away will only dumb us down as a society. Please, take the time to use the full word. Take the time to add proper punctuation. And please, by all means, don’t use the dash (--) unless you absolutely mean it because I really hate reading a document that is full of dashes that only make it look choppy and unprofessional.

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