Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Punctuation: The Death of the Question Mark?

Much has been written about the misuse and lack of apostrophes in signs, menus, e-mails and other common printed English: the average American, though educated, seldom seems to understand the difference between plurals and possessives. (And while we all make mistakes, some of us always make the same ones.) When talking about a family, many of us might write the Johnson’s. A menu may feature Egg’s Benedict. This used to bother me.

No longer. Now it’s the missing question mark, and it’s everywhere, making requests or queries sound like stubborn commands. Here are some real-life examples I’ve collected, with all original language intact:
“Have you try to put the two jackets seam to seam.” (Comment from one blogger to another on a blog about men’s clothing)

“Do you want me to change the Quark file also.” (E-mail from art director at a magazine)

“I’m not sure if you can do these changes on line or do you need me to send you a whole new html files.” (Another from that art director)

“Do you have images or something else to add.” (That art director again)

“Can you articulate what you think when you see them.” (E-mail from a colleague)
When I read these, I hear a monotone voice in my head reciting these phrases the way one would a fact: “The bird is flying.”

For some reason, I don’t mind reading messages written without any capitalization. I don’t mind shortcut spellings like nite for night, thanx, and even prolly for probably. There’s a reason for it—it’s saving space and time. But using a period instead of hitting the question mark key next to the period is just sloppy.

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