Interesting and timely column here at the NY Times (h/t Maggie’s Farm) about online writers’ poor punctuation habits. It offers hair-raising examples of multiple exclamation marks, refusals to use periods, going upper case, and even a monstrosity that combines the exclamation and question marks and is called, appropriately, the interrobang.
The relevant question in the article is how online scribblers should write right. Quite right, too.
My own solution has always been to use standard English, except when I write in Czech, in which case I tend to use – you’ll never guess!!! – standard Czech. In my twenty years in the United States Navy, no boss had ever been able to shake me of the habit. (“Damn it, Ensign Kubat, rewrite this s**t now! Those sentences are too complicated and, well, too f***ing literary! This is an aircraft carrier, Ensign, not English Comp 101.”) And in my seventeen years as a mental health clinician – ditto. (“Mr. Michael, you’re obviously using language as a tool to show off your malignant fantasy of white male superiority and to put down people of color.”) Even one of my sons has fretted that I “waste his time” by using proper punctuation, spelling and capitalization in text messages – and he majored in English, and on my dime, too! And, not to be left behind, my wife complains that, when I speak, I pronounce every syllable of every word. (Okay, okay, I guess that’s a different story.)
But I am sticking to my guns. If it won’t work in a pen-and-paper letter, it doesn’t belong in any other kind of communication.