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?