As for punctuation, no one ever agrees where the commas go anyway, and it probably doesn’t matter. Punctuation has always changed with fashion, location, and context, a fact of language history which angers everyone who wants the rules of writing to remain both as constant as the ten commandments, and violated a lot less frequently.
One reason for its instability is the fact that no one ever agrees what punctuation is for. Sometimes it indicates pauses, sometimes syntactic units. Sometimes it’s deleted for aesthetic reasons, and sometimes writers pepper their prose with punctuation in the hopes that some of their commas and semicolons will hit the target. When punctuation becomes dysfunctional, we drop it. When we need new punctuation marks, we invent them.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
national punctuation day
In honour of National Punctuation Day, let me quote Dennis Baron: