How to Mark National Punctuation Day

Attention, grammarphiles: today is National Punctuation Day!

Commemorated every September 24th, National Punctuation Day is the only holiday in existence to celebrate the wonderful, squiggly world of punctuation marks. In a world where punctuation is rapidly in decline, thanks to texting and trendy writers (ahem, ee cummings and James Frey), this day serves to remind us that “a semicolon is not a surgical procedure,” nor is an ellipsis the moment “when the moon moves in front of the sun.”

Wondering how you can mark this happy day? Unfortunately, NPD isn’t a public holiday (yet). However, there are a few of ways to show your appreciation for all things punctuation-y.

The organizers behind National Punctuation Day hold an annual competition. This year, in honor of the 2012 presidential election, they ask their constituents to elect one punctuation mark as president:

The rules: Write one paragraph with a maximum of three sentences using the following 13 punctuation marks to explain which should be “presidential,” and why: apostrophe, brackets, colon, comma, dash, ellipsis, exclamation point, hyphen, parentheses, period, question mark, quotation mark, and semicolon. You may use a punctuation mark more than once, and there is no word limit. Multiple entries are permitted.

So much for my dark horse vote for the interpunct. Its uses are gravely underrated, if you ask me. Cast your ballot for one of the other hopefuls by visiting the National Punctuation Day website and submitting your thoughts.

The New Yorker‘s Questioningly column is also partnering with NPD for its latest competition. In its post “Punctuation Nation,” Questioningly asks its readers to devise a brand new punctuation mark. The constraints are that it must be made from a combination of two already existing punctuation marks, like the interrobang, for instance (?! or sometimes ‽). The column suggests,

maybe there should be a ,? mark, which indicates slowness and confusion, or a /\, which indicates disingenuous differentiation between two otherwise similar elements. (What?!) Anyway, you get it.

To enter, tweet your suggestion, followed by the hashtag #tnyquestion. You can view all of the current submissions to the contest here.

And if both of those competitions fail you, what else is there to do but sulk at home and bake food in the shape of punctuation marks, right? Yup, National Punctuation Day has a recipe for that.

Bonus Fun:

Haven’t had your fill yet? What a punc you are. This puzzle should set you straight…

Insert the proper punctuation in this sentence necessary to make it correct:

James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher

Got it yet? Check your answer here. (No peeking!)


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