National Punctuation Day

exclamationpointI’m a “day late and a dollar short” as the old-timers used to say. Did you know Sept. 24 was National Punctuation Day?” I didn’t, but as an editor, I applaud having one!

Perhaps the biggest punctuation problem is when to use an apostrophe with IT. I would say about 90% of people today consistently add the apostrophe when they don’t need it.

It’s is a contraction for it is or it has. Its is a possessive pronoun meaning something belongs to it. And there is absolutely, positively, no such word as its.

Hint: If you can replace the word “it’s” with “it is” or “it has” you can use the apostrophe. Otherwise, don’t.

Another misused punctuation mark is the quote. You see it everywhere, especially on signs. Misused quotes Caution signPeople use it to emphasize words, but it makes it appear that they don’t really mean it.


Customer Parking “Only”

Quotes should be used to denote dialogue or words directly quoted from another source. If you want to emphasize your sign, use bold print, a different color, or underline it.

What are your favorite misused punctuation marks or signs with quotes?questionmark

Published in: on September 27, 2009 at 2:06 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am a comma user! It drives my group crazy! I am actively trying not to use so many in my text, but boy it’s hard!( see?)!!
    Also the misspelling and misuse of the word ‘Loose’ and ‘lose’.
    “You are going to LOSE something”.
    “The cow is loose.”

    Why is it so hard for people to use that word correctly?

  2. I write for and have tried and tried to get people to correctly use its and it’s. It’s pointless; people are careless (or stupid; I prefer to think careless). I generally only use exclamation points in emails or dialogue, but only if necessary. I, too, am in love with commas, but I’ve actually found writers who use them more than I do. (See above.) I also over-use — occasionally — the dash. Writers on the internet (although I’m sure no members of WWW) also seem to be unable to tell when to use your and when to use you’re. The difference is much more obvious than that between its and it’s, but apparently it’s still too much for some writers. I could throw in many misused words, but they aren’t really punctuation, are they? I’m fond of the question mark myself, but not as fond as I am of the comma and semi-colon. I think that quotation marks can also be used if you’re indicating that you don’t believe the word, as in, “William Jackson believes he is a “good” writer.” I just indicated that I think he’s anything but. If you haven’t encountered any of his books, consider yourself fortunate. And yes, I am the grammarian about whom your mother warned you.

    • Lori, “the grammarian about whom your other warned you.” LOL. Me too–I can barely read anything without my editing pencil!

  3. I loved this piece, Heidi. It could definitely be a series.

    I have to be careful not to use too many dashes.

    • Me too. Dashes and ellipsis…–!!!


  4. Fun subject. I worked as an editor at a newspaper for several years. I have to tell you, though, the items that have given me the most desire to edit are road signs like “Drive slow.” At least the sign doesn’t say “Drive very slow.” 🙂

    • Or less vs fewer–the signs at the grocery check-out “Ten or Less Items”–that sets my teeth on edge!!

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