Thursday, April 22, 2004

There is fashion in language as in everything else. I admit I may not be the best example of that fashion, but I have my style and that's enough. Take it or leave it.

Context is important. In my younger days as a writer, really just a poetaster daubing poemlets about any number of whims in a little notebook I carried everywhere, I decided to create a website in which I would write a weekly article, much like this. The only real punctuation I used, as it was a reflection of my attempt to capture some kind of feeling of continuation, was the ellipsis. An ellipsis, for those of you who may not know, is three periods in succession... made famous by such writers as Herb Caen... that's as far back as my memory goes... and my memory ain't so good. You have the internet. Do your own research.

Anyway, after a year or so, I simply got bored by the ellipsis, the use of which was really an offshoot of my poetic practices (don't laugh), even though I didn't, often, use any punctuation at all in my own poetry. If I was going to use any punctuation, though, it had to be the ellipsis! Oh, beauteous grammatical mark! On the website, though, it was just too hard to create the continuous drip of writing I was after, and I started to think it was stupid. So I killed that idea. I really just wanted to present a more professional image to my audience, which was is and perhaps will be almost no one. Punctuate that!

Meanwhile, the ellipsis had snuck into much of the other informal writing I did. E-mail, for example, or vile hand-written *gasp* notes to my roommates. I think it's fine in those forums, which is largely used for cuff responses to my friends, family and what-else. Nonetheless, I have used e-mail successfully to apply for jobs and submit writing to various publications, which requires a semblance of professionalism.

Recently, a farty old poetry goat publicly chastised my lack of standardized punctuation in my posts on an online forum. I was a little perturbed that he raised his hackles about the way I express myself, especially as we were both, supposedly, creative writers, and take some license with language as a rule. Now, I simply won't go to the website anymore or support that kind of nonsense. I could understand it if I were writing a press release or something more official, but he was criticising my personal method of conveying my thoughts in a workshop, which really doesn't matter, especially as they were written to another person. Nothing on the site was listed about correct form in a criticism, and there are really more important things to rub the wrong way than how someone communicates.

Why is this so important to me? It's not the first time I ruffled some feathers in this manner, but I recently read an article about a new book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss. I didn't read the book, but she apparently ruminates about the demise of punctuation. Not a new concept for anyone who has watched communication trends brought about by computers, but one that got me all riled. The fashionable will continue to dominate popular culture, whether it be in a semiconductor or a semicolon, so who cares if punctuations is dying. I prefer to think of it as evolution. Besidest that, styles always come back.

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