Missing the point?

I love how people get their knickers in a twist over punctuation – are we English speakers unique in this?

The Guardian has a review today of Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation by David Crystal. Sounds like an interesting attempt to wrest the dots and dashes of the language back from the pedants:

“His central argument, buttressed by countless well-chosen examples and enlivened by the odd whimsical digression, is that neither a phonetic, nor a semantic, nor a grammatical account of our punctuation system is singly sufficient. Those hoping to make punctuation logically consistent are chasing a will o’ the wisp – and ignoring the aesthetics and the pragmatics of practice. But nor is it a complete free-for-all. There are discoverable rules, or at least workable generalisations, about how punctuation functions. However, they are discoverable by the study of usage rather than from old school textbooks.”

Only, said pendants then all descend upon the comments section to argue over en-dashes, semicolons (or is it semi-colons), and even the usage of the humble comma.

It’s not that I disagree with the idea of correct usage, it’s the puritanical zeal with which some pursue it that puzzles me. If only people could get as animated about real injustices…

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