Punctuation Changes I’d Like to See

Welcome BACK to Amazing Words Wednesday. I took a hiatus for a bit while working on some other projects, but I’m back to walk us through the labyrinth of language to see what we can find.

Today’s post, though, is really about what we would not find. Language and grammar rules are not etched in stone. They can change as need and usage dictates. Now this doesn’t mean that Jane Citizen gets to ignore proper grammar and make up her own rules. The whole point of grammar and punctuation is to facilitate communication, which requires some mutual parameters. Just as we have road rules to make sure we get where we want to go, grammar and punctuation help us achieve our goal of effectively communicating and receiving messages.

But I’ve got a few suggestions for punctuation I’d like to see changed.

Punctuation marks

Drop the spaces between ellipses dots. The standard for using ellipses is to insert spaces between the words and dots, as follows:

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be . . . we shall never surrender.” – Winston Churchill

Have you noticed that accepted style finally changed to nix the two spaces between sentences in favor of a single space? Scalable fonts allowed better spacing, making the additional space unnecessary.

Likewise, I suggest that the extra spaces between ellipses are unnecessary and a real pain when dealing with line breaks. It would save time and assist formatting to finally drop the spaces between ellipses dots.

Add a comma before “because.” For reasons I have never fully understood, the standard has been to insert a comma before a conjunction in a compound sentence EXCEPT when using the word “because.” So I would write:

“She shirked her duty, but I wasn’t surprised by her laziness.” YET . . .

“She shirked her duty because she was lazy.”

Why is there no comma before “because”? It’s one of those rules that simply doesn’t make sense to me. Grammar works best when it’s consistent, so could we please add a comma before “because”? It would make the rule consistent across the board, alleviating the need for poor explanations for this exception.

(Daily Writing Tips does give suggestions for when to use a comma and when not to.)

Adopt a punctuation mark covering both question and exclamation. How many times have you seen this someone’s writing:

?!

There are times when a question is indeed exclaimed. As in:

“What were you thinking?!”

“You want me to go into the woods where the serial killer is?!”

“You like roaches?!”

You’re really supposed to pick one or the other. If a question is exclaimed, grammar experts say to use the exclamation point, and we’ll all figure out it’s a question. There is a whole other punctuation mark we could use. It’s called the interrobang, and it gets rid of any confusion and that moment of the author wondering just where the line is drawn between questioning and exclaiming. Let’s use it.

Interrobang punctuation mark
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Get rid of the comma with “also” and “too.” This has started to disappear, but it’s still common enough to see a sentence written as “She ordered a piece of cake, too.” It’s grammatically correct to include a comma before the words too and also.

But it’s superfluous. The meaning of the words too and also are so clear as to not be confused with other meanings such that a comma is required to set them off. I simply don’t think we need it.

Now it’s your turn: What do you think of my suggestions? What punctuation changes would you like to see? 

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24 thoughts on “Punctuation Changes I’d Like to See

  1. What?! No comma before “because” in a compound sentence?! (Where’s that interrobang when you need it?)

    The text book I used when I taught college English grammar courses treated “because” like all the other conjunctions. Use a comma when both parts could be a complete sentence. I say use that comma, Julie. 😀

    I agree about the superfluous spaces in ellipses and the extra commas. I’m still retraining my fingers to single space between sentences. That double space still sneaks in.

    I love your grammar posts, Julie.

    1. I believe in being an incurable liar when it comes to writing fiction and a constant truth-seeker when it comes to punctuating your story. 😉 Thanks, Catie!

  2. Sold! I’m in all the way with your suggestions. I don’t put the space before the … and I always put the comma before because. My editor changed each of these. Opps?! <– now I want a new keyboard with the cool interrobang. 🙂 I make enough mistakes. It's definitely time for grammar to make some changes that suit me, lol. Great post, Julie.

  3. An “interrobang”???? I’ve never heard of it, Julie. Wow! What a cool thing to use. I often use just the exclamation point, as you noted, to get my point across but this interrobang would be useful. And I had been wondering for years about the “too” and “also” because I knew there was supposed to be a comma though I stopped seeing them. Thanks so much for this news!
    Patti

    1. You’re welcome, Patti! According to Internet sources, you can make an interrobang on many programs using ALT + 8253. Unfortunately, I can’t try that out right now. Best wishes!

  4. I’m still struggling to NOT do double spacing after a full stop, but I agree there is no need. I’ve never been sure if you should put a space before and after a hyphen. I believe I’ve seen both versions (with/without).

    1. The ?! has become very common, hasn’t it? There must be a better way, like the interrobang.

      Which is just a fun word to say anyway: interrobang. Thanks, Nancy!

  5. I totally agree about the elipses, Julie, but I keep looking at your “because” example and wondering if the second clause isn’t subordinate. “She was lazy” is definitely a clause. It could stand alone. But it also modifies the first clause of the sentence. Not true in your first example. “I wasn’t surprised by her laziness” doesn’t tell us why she shirked her duty.

    In areas like this, I think there is room for experts to disagree. It’s a fine line of distinction. But I see a definite difference in the nature of the two sentences you used as examples.

    1. Yeah, I see the dependent clause point. I still want a comma, because even with many subordinate clauses, you get one. I thought the link I provided (Daily Writing Tips) gave a pretty good treatment of the issue.

      I like that you and both enjoy discussing these finer points of grammar, David!

  6. Love the interrobang. I even like the name.

    It took me a long time, as well, to accept the elimination of one space after a period. I finally gave in, though. I think I would like to eliminate all the spaces in the ellipses, as well. It’s a lot of trouble, and WordPress frequently puts one of the dots on the next line, which simply looks ridiculous in my posts.

    I notice you did not address the Oxford comma. What is your opinion on that?

    1. Yes, Jeff! It’s the separation of ellipses dots in line and page breaks that drives me nuts. When we used typewriters, one could easily adjust for that, but word processors don’t jive well with the space-dot-space-etc. configuration.

      I did not address the Oxford comma–perhaps because in my world it’s a foregone conclusion that the Oxford comma rocks! Since punctuation is supposed to facilitate understanding content, the serial comma seems like a no-brainer to me. I personally find few who argue against it these days. Your thoughts?

      1. Yes, I’m a fan of the Oxford, too. I currently use a reference for my daily blog. It’s a book called Great Stories from History for Every Day. It’s published in England, and it has different spellings (like “humour,” for example), and consistently does NOT use the serial comma. It’s annoying when I quote it, because I try to quote exactly, and my habit is to include that comma, and this book does not.

  7. I would definitely use the interrobang.

    And my computer actually has a “symbol” that you can insert for the ellipses without the spaces, but I can never remember the key command so I don’t waste the time to do the insert symbol commands and just type the dots and spaces. (Note to self: try really hard to remember the key command.)

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. I notice that my writing software, Scrivener, will take three dots between words and automatically scale them to have some spacing. It seems like that would be easy to program everywhere. Maybe that’s the answer.

      Thanks for commenting, Patricia!

  8. I was taught the comma represented a half breath. Using “because” makes the sentence flow without the need for a half breath. Never heard of the interrobang; love it!?!?! 🙂

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