Like it or not, we now live in a world of LOL OMG ROFL, where lots of highly educated people have thrown spelling and grammar to the wayside in favor of laziness and saving time. But one man has never lost respect for the comma, never forgotten the value of a semi colon or chosen to indulge in a little LOL. He is the founder of National Punctuation Day, Punctuation Czar Jeff Rubin.
“This whole holiday started out of frustration. I’m an ex newspaperman. When I was coming up in the news business, newspaper people knew how to write, we had good editors. You didn’t find that many mistakes in newspapers and virtually none in books. Now you find them everywhere. I don’t remember the last time I picked up a book from a major publishing house and didn’t see a mistake. These things drive me nuts! So I started a holiday in the hopes that a lot of educators would jump on board and get back to basics.”
National Punctuation Day was on Monday, but since we didn’t have a show, I’m telling you about it now! I asked Jeff exactly what he does to celebrate his own holiday.
“I like to take a long shower, go out for coffee, have a bagel and then get to the fun part. I bring a red pen, a newspaper and circle all the mistakes, put it in an envelope and mail it back to the editor. Then I like to take my camera and drive around and take photographs of all the incorrectly punctuated signs and get them up on my website.”
Fun times, huh? As a fellow grammar geek, his quirky hobby sounds sort of fun to me, but not everyone has nice things to say.
“It gets nasty. Some of the more mild things: I’m obsessive compulsive, I spend too much time worrying about things that aren’t important, it doesn’t matter as long as you understood what I meant. Those folks who are close to me understand my passion for this.”
Every year, Jeff creates a contest to get people into the National Punctuation Day spirit.
“This year, in honor of the presidential election, we’re having a presidential punctuation contest. Write one paragraph, maximum of three sentences, using 13 punctuation marks to explain which should be the presidential punctuation mark and why.”
Those of us who have a fondness for words and punctuation often have a favorite punctuation mark, and I had a feeling I’d know what Jeff’s is: the semi colon.
“I think because of all the punctuation marks, that’s the one that’s misused the most. Naturally, if you care about language and grammar and punctuation, I think you’re drawn to those kinds of punctuation marks. Everybody knows how to use the period, and everyone knows you use an exclamation point when you’re excited. But the semi-colon? The geeks like you, the geeks like me, we know that stuff.”
So let’s all take a day to remind ourselves that proper grammar is important. Use an apostrophe in a text, capitalize letters in your emails and learn when to use a comma. Period.