Lying in a comma.

This year’s Ad Congress theme is “Ready for the
World?!” I am quite the schoolmarm when it comes to punctuation (see additional
obsessive-compulsiveness in the excellent Eats, Shoots and
) and I could not see the theme for the punctuation. When the
committee released the poster asking for logo studies, they specified that the
question mark and exclamation point both had to be there. While I understood
what they were trying to achieve (the gestalt of the challenge and its
acceptance with enthusiasm), my eyeballs

(Every two years, the Ad Congress
campaign is up for grabs. Agencies pitch for bragging rights. We pitched this
year, and lost. Campaigns & Grey got

My favorite punctuation mark is the
semicolon. I tend to use it too often, I know; I like the pause it gives, half
an inhalation longer than a comma, and the invisible hand it extends to the next
clause, as if to say, don’t worry, I haven’t let go of the thought. I admire
writers who wield it with knowledge and grace.

Text messages have dispensed with the
semicolon, using it as a wink rather than as punctuation. I’ve nothing against
smileys. When I can’t hone and polish my sentences so that the sarcasm is as
obvious as a pustulant red balloon on a clown’s nose, I cheerfully attach a
smiley. Emoticons do make me lazy; but there are times I’d much rather be lazy
than misunderstood.

The comma is my
second favorite punctuation mark. I suffer from more commas than I do
semicolons. In high school, we were taught to identify run-on sentences by
counting the number of commas. If there were more than three commas separating
clauses, we were looking at a run-on sentence that deserved to be taken out to
the playground and shot. We were little Hitler Hemingways in training. We had
yet to meet Faulkner.

Like casual
Fridays, there’s casual punctuation. I overload my text messages with
exclamation points, with no pedantic anguish whatsoever. Somehow, when I am at
my Mac, typing away, it’s different. I can’t. I just can’t send my sentences out
into the world with disheveled apostrophes and frayed ends.