Peevish on Punctuation

Noreen Malone’s piece in Slate decrying the overuse of the em dash made me smile mostly because I am a flagrant offender. I can also be profligate with commas, semicolons and parenthesis, despite the fact I do know better.  Cognizant that I live in a glass house when it comes to correct punctuation, I am nevertheless weirdly annoyed by the ellipse used in any fashion beside the standard one, namely, as an indicator of text deliberately omitted or an unfinished thought. Back when I was an editor, I worked with an author who used to write me letters that looked like this:

Jessica…I got your edit memo…I am responding to your queries…I should be finished by week’s end…Yours…M…

I always wondered what M was leaving out, what those little dots concealed.  Perhaps the real, unexpurgated note read this way:

Jessica, you thankless taskmistress, I got your edit memo and was, frankly, astounded. I am responding to your queries, which are so numerous and onerous that I am nearly speechless with outrage. Assuming that I work round the clock, exhaust myself utterly and type ‘til my fingers bleed, I should be finished by week’s end. Yours are the most impossible edits that I have ever encountered.  Mad as Hell.

Do you have any punctuation pet peeves?

6 Responses to Peevish on Punctuation

  1. EEV says:

    Your interpretation of M’s concealed thoughts made me LOL.
    I do have punctuation peeves: semi-colons used gratuitously. And the ellipses… also annoy… the hell out… of me…


  2. I hate really long sentences. I also hate it when authors show off how sophisticated they are by not using quotation marks. Excessive ellipses are also disconcerting. Clearly, if she’s only telling you part of the story, there’s something shady going on.

  3. <'))))< fish annoy me most

  4. Teri Carter says:

    Hello. My name is Teri. I am an em dash addict.

    When I go back to get rid of the Em Dashes, Justs, and all the sentences beginning with But and And, my prose actually becomes all sparkly.

  5. Julie Nilson says:

    I am a flagrant user of em dashes, at least in my email correspondence. I try to be a little less flagrant in my fiction, but I’m not sure how well I succeed.

    Your piece on unnecessary ellipses gave me a warm fuzzy, reminding me of a sweet friend who passed away years ago and would go on similarly hilarious rants about people who used those. :)

  6. Jerome says:

    I’m SO guilty of overellipsizing. Period.

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