Like any writer worth her highlighted copy of The Elements of Style, I’m passionate about punctuation. But given the imitable Strunk and White are unable to comment on the state of grammar in this, the age of emoji, I’m down to take up the mantle.
Presenting: an unsolicited, unhinged, and incomplete style guide.
(Apologies in advance to Holly, our all-knowing, ever-helpful proofreader.)
Certain (boring) people demand this mark be reserved only for moments of stupendous jubilation. To that I say: Boo! Judging by the doomsday clock, humanity might not even stick around long enough for you to use your lifetime allotment of seven exclamation points. Go nuts!!!!!!
Whether omitting needless words or creating suspense, look no further than…the ellipsis. I’ve noticed people of a certain generation tend to abuse its power, so their emails have the tension of a plotless Stephen King novel. Abstain accordingly, unless you claim fluency in “Boomerspeak.”
Just in from the “No Duh” Department: periods mark the end of a sentence. But there was also a dark time circa 2014 where people and/or ironic t-shirt brands would use them for emphasis (e.g., “Best. Night. Ever.”). I humbly ask you to refrain, so you may avoid sounding like a Dave & Buster’s commercial. (No shade to D&B.)
I will never know the “correct” usage of an em dash—and to be honest, I don’t care to. Just sprinkle these bad boys wherever it feels right—they’ve never failed me before and look way less pretentious than semicolons (ugh; so smug) or whatever this rich grandma ~ thing is.
While I’d never identify as an “Oxford comma enthusiast,” I defer to Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief at Random House, who says, “No sentence has ever been harmed by a series comma, and many a sentence has been improved by one.” This advice is smart, fair, and easy to apply.
Parentheticals are perfect for offsetting a citation or making a cute, little aside to show everyone how clever you (think you) are. I recommend using them ad nauseam. (Pepto-Bismol not included.)
Given these edited rules are very official and definitely real, be sure to incorporate them into communications with friends, family, and important work contacts!!
Have an exclamatory weekend, everybody!
—Your always-rewriting-the-rules friends at Brokaw