Emily Gordon writes:
A few stars—and we don’t mean asterisks—are emerging in our punctuation-addressing contest to win Ben Greenman’s new book, What He’s Poised to Do. Here are the rankings of letter recipients so far, out of 82 entries and counting. What does this say about these marks, or about us as a society? We don’t know. All we know is, some of these little symbols are coming home with an armful of valentines (and a little hate mail), and some are Charlie Brown, weeping into their sandwiches. If you’re for the underdog, as we generally are, take a moment to send a note to, say, the solitary slash, or, for that matter, the ubiquitous but apparently invisible backslash. Send a salami to your manicule in the army! Keep those cards and letters coming.
The current rankings (to be updated frequently for those placing bets):
Semicolon (which has withstood some harsh attacks in the past): 8
Exclamation Point: 7
At sign: 3
em dash: 2
Question Mark: 2
Tied with one piece of fan (or unfan) mail each: acute accent, air quote, at-the-price-of, bracket, bullet, comma, curly quote, diaeresis, dollar sign en dash, exclaquestion mark, hyphen, interpunct, interroverti (formerly the inverted question mark), macron, percent sign, pilcrow, pound sign, quotation mark, smart quote, underline, Oxford comma.
No postcards, no wedding invitations, no junk mail, no J. Crew catalogue, no nuthin’: backslash, bullet, caret, copyright symbol, dagger, dash ditto mark, degree, ditto mark, double hyphen, inverted exclamation point, guillemets, lozenge, number sign (number sign! that’s the hashtag you use so shamelessly!), the “therefore” and “because” signs, slash, solidus, and tie.
Here are some stark and potentially upsetting images of those characters who have received no mail. Can you look into their fragile strokes and deny them the notice they crave?
\ • © ^ ° † ‡ « » ＝ 〃 ⁀ ◊ ∴ ∵ ¡ # / ⁄
Note: We realize that some of these marks are really less punctuation than they are typographical elements. But since they’re getting letters, or we think they should, we’re including them.
Hello! I’m Emily Gordon, a content strategist, critic, and copywriter. Emdashes, born in 2004, spent its formative years as a New Yorker fan blog. (The project garnered some nice compliments and press.) It’s now a collection of conversations—generally civilized—about punctuation, magazines, movies, design, and other things that stir me.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a small army of culture writers, editors, and artists. You can read all about the people who've helped build Emdashes here at “Who We?” (That’s a New Yorker joke. Old habits die hard.)
I welcome submissions, questions, corrections, and ardent, obsessive contributors. I also host occasional book-related contests and giveaways. Questioners and publishers, just email me.
Looking for The New Yorker magazine? Kudos on your classy taste. Here’s how to contact The New Yorker.
The original Emdashes pencil logo was designed by Jennifer Hadley, based on a 1943 Dorothy Gray ad.