November 29, 2013
(The Typewriter Film, LLC )
(The Typewriter Film, LLC )

Here’s the rundown:

,: You cannot get enough of items in a series!

@: That’s not a punctuation mark.

#: You’re on Twitter a lot, often starting sentences with “HASHTAG: DULL” or “HASHTAG: AWKWARD!” Or you’ve mistaken the keyboard for an old-timey touch telephone.

%: This isn’t a punctuation mark.

$: This isn’t a punctuation mark either. You’re trapped in the non-punctuation area of the keyboard! Call someone over to help.

~: Do you know what this is used for? If so, tell me. I think French people use it sometimes, maybe in soups. I don’t know. I avoid it like the plague or people who try to make conversation with you on airplanes or people on airplanes displaying one or two key plague-like symptoms.

.: Ah, the period. Formerly, the mark of a complete thought. No longer, since no one has had a complete thought since 1998 sometime, since they had to stop in the middle to check their e-mail and make certain nothing more interesting was happening on Twitter. Now, the period is reduced to being used in e-mails to indicate that you are irrationally angry or disappointed about something. Contrast “Yes, Dave, I got the file!” with “Yes, Dave, I got the file.” Is something good about to happen to Dave after that second sentence? I should say not.

Oxford Comma: You are a person who insists on telling other people how good your grammar is and how much you care about it. You get a lot of support on the Internet, but in person, you’re insufferable. Like most people who get a lot of support on the Internet.

-: You were trying to use an em-dash, but you didn’t know which keys to push.

;: You’re a jerk who read one book by Nietzche or maybe Foucault and it’s the only thing you ever talk about now. And what’s worse, you’ve taken a perfectly useful punctuation mark and ruined it for the unpretentious writers among us, the same thing hipsters are always doing to perfectly nice cheap beers.

–: You were trying to use an em-dash, and you DID know which keys to push! Good on you. I bet you have your life in order and you go grocery-shopping regularly. Maybe even at Trader Joe’s, and not in the frozen food aisle, either! Well–played, sir or madam! (Whoops, I’d better leave that to professionals like you!)

&: I get it. “Ampersand” sounds fun. “Ampersand” like “baggage carousel” and “gherkin” and “roux” is a lot more fun to say than it is to use. A simple “+” could achieve everything you just did, ampersand, but without wasting so much ink and looking like a drunk cursive G that tripped and got tangled in an S and decided to just play it off instead of going home to change. You clearly don’t care about the functionality of punctuation. I bet you’re one of those people who uses punctuation marks made of metal as home decorations. With tea lights. What are you, a Pinterest page? Stop.

?: These were fun at first? But when you end every sentence with one? You make me want to punch you on the mazzard?

!: This used to mean you were exuberant and laughing at your own joke, but now you have to use it all the time in e-mails by default so it won’t seem like you’re horribly upset. Choose another one.

“”: As long as you don’t make these with your fingers when you talk, these mark you as a solid individual. You like to cite your sources. You like accuracy. You are, therefore, completely unsuited to much of Internet life, with its rampant joyous orgy of constant reappropriation. That or you are one of those people who writes signs for restaurants advertising “FRESH” FOOD, and I don’t know what goes on inside your head.

:: The colon, huh? The only punctuation mark that shares a name with a part of your body that helps you digest, except of course for the cecum, which is the pet name I just assigned to that ~ thing I was wondering about earlier! I bet you use that fact a lot in conversation, maybe before starting off a big list, as fans of colons often like to do.

(): Sure, parentheses are fine. Looks classy, and all. “I can even afford information,” they say, “that isn’t even NEEDED in this sentence! Later I’ll burn it or feed it to a stray cat, or something!” But who actually uses them for their intended purpose? No, it’s all about the emoticons. We all have items like this lying around the house.

^: “Look up!” you like to say. I don’t know much about you, other than that you are not Inspector Javert. You could be one of those guys at the NSA who likes to put noses on your emoticons, like some kind of weirdo.

*: You love to insert footnotes even when nobody called for them.*

|: What is this thing? How do you use it in a sentence? It looks like a stripper pole for apostrophes.

\: Backslash, huh? You must be a fan of Internet 1.0.

/: Slash, huh? Have you ever tried googling this? I hope you like either guitar shredding or obscure Internet erotica, because those are your only options.

<>: These can’t actually be your favorites. When do you ever use them? They’re sort of cool until you pause to consider them, sort of like those albino twins in the second “Matrix” film.

*And who can blame you?

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.