Preventing Punctuation Problem People

It’s a ripple effect of texting and other forms of social media, like that bloated feeling a person has after his fourth trip to the Chinese buffet food bar. I wouldn’t call it a catastrophe, but I might put the label of “famine” on it– punctuation famine, that is!

Grading seventh-grade language arts assignments for the past five months has made me realize it isn’t a slip, like when I think I’m typing an exclamation point and I realize I typed the number 1! (In fact, I just typed that three times to get the punctuation point111!) No, the punctuation shortage has become an epidemic. Commas are no longer common, capital letters have fled to the South, and semi-colons are less understood than the 70-year-old hoarder getting counseling on Dr. Phil’s show.

Pretty soon punctuation marks may disappear from our keyboard as if they were carryovers from the Greek alphabet. I have some students who understand the meaning of a comma in the midst of a sentence, but there are other seventh-graders who shave more often than they have one of those squiggly marks appear in their assignment.

So I’ve had to start taking on the role of the mean teacher and taking off points for not capitalizing the first word in a sentence. I need to take the next step toward being defined as cranky and chop off some points for writing a one sentence paragraph that includes sixty words and no separating signs that would allow the reader to take a breath.

I’ve had “martin luther king”, “denver”, “december”, but no one uses lower case letters when they write “The Nuggets” or “Broncos”. Quotation marks are seen simply as being an unnecessary nuisance, like a speed bump on a drag strip! Question marks are questionable, and a colon is believed to just be a body part.

So I’m leading these enlistees through a punctuation boot camp. They are going to get down-and-dirty in the new jungles of strange species of punctuation. When they see their parents they’ll begin to think of parentheses. When they pass a fire hydrant they’ll recall the use of a hyphen. When they watch a hockey game they’ll think of “periods”. I’ll be like a drill sergeant making them view an apostrophe as being an extended hand to keep an ‘s’ from falling off the cliff!

My hope is that come May they may remember to capitalize the month and then say “I did it!” (exclamation point).

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