OMG . . . at last, a holiday I can really get behind!
Tomorrow is National Punctuation Day in the USA. If only I had known in advance, I’d have baked semicolon scones to send in for their contest.
See the site at http://nationalpunctuationday.com/!
The serial comma finally gets its due in the form of their endorsement.
How many horses were in the race, three or four?
“The horses thundered toward the finish: black and gold, red and white, blue and teal and yellow.”
When punctuated using a serial comma, the meaning is clear. Four horses raced neck-and-neck: black and gold, red and white, blue and teal, and yellow.
(I could envision it other ways: what if they were black-and-gold, red-and-white, blue, and teal-and-yellow? Another argument for hyphenating compound modifiers, as well as including the serial comma. I also think teal goes better with yellow. Or it could be black-and-gold, red-and-white, blue, teal, and yellow. You know, the Joycean “blue and teal and yellow” stream.)
[They include another example of an ambiguous book dedication, but I’ve always preferred my original example from years ago: “To my parents, Hillary Clinton and God.”]
“Punctuation counts,” says Rubin. “A misplaced comma can alter the meaning of a sentence. ‘Style guides’ should never get in the way of clarity. The proper use of the serial comma should be taught, used, and accepted universally.”
Now, if the world would only get over that hangup about the interrobang.
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“Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.”–Lewis Thomas, “Notes on Punctuation,” _The Medusa and the Snail_ (1979)