Tag Archives: grammar

exclamation smirks

3 Jun

image courtesy of writers-edge.info

I’m a bit of a grammar nazi.  I don’t like it, it’s  a prescriptive and anal way of thinking.  I’d like to think my university days studying english language had paid off,  that I could see language as just a tool to fit a purpose,   a product constructed through its cultural usage.  Evolving, morphing, adapting.

But the truth is, I can’t.  I can still  hear both my parent’s voices in my head scolding me when I misuse an apostrophe, choose incorrectly from “more” and “less” when  expressing quantity, failing to follow Tony with I when proceeded by anything verblike.  It kind of ires me because I like the idea of the evolution of language, that the use of words or phrases should never be wholly dictated by rules and convention, but be fluid and playful. Christ, I’m a writer after all.

And my distaste is not just limited to grammatical mistakes. I can get disproportionately offended by punctuation too.  Take exclamation marks for example.   I just don’t like them. To me, at best, they should only ever be used to denote humour, and even then it feels as if I’m being told to find something funny before I’ve even made up my own mind.  A bit forced, cocky even.  I suppose they might clarify a statement’s mood – “I’m saying this as a joke, not an insult” – but then what is a smilie for? Surely they’re a lot more cute, less “in your face”.

Technically I think exclamation marks can also be used when conveying shock or suprise, the impact of something. But it always feels inappropriate to me, offensive even.  To me they are laughing marks, used with something serious it just feels like you’re belittling its gravitas, worse, taking it as one big (bad) joke.

“I’m so sorry you’ve broken your leg, it must be really frustrating!” or

“That’s dreadful, I can’t believe that someone nicked your car the day you lost your job!” or more recently for me

“I’m so sorry you’re mum died, you must be a real mess!”.

And what is it with some bloggers or commenters that seem pathologically incapable of writing without punctuating every single sentence with one?  Sometimes I wonder if it’s a kind of defense mechanism – they’re worried other people might think their writing or attitude stinks, so it’s a way of poking fun at themselves before anyone else does. Kind of like the extrovert chubby lady.

God it really is all a bit anal isn’t it? And this is all coming from someone who started her blogging journey refusing to capitalise i at the start of the sentence, thinking it was a bit quirky or something.  Bless.   Well my nazi self quickly put paid to that one thank god.