Some time ago, we sponsored a contest—write a letter to a punctuation mark, and get a chance to win a signed copy of Ben Greenman’s book What He’s Poised to Do—whose results diverted and delighted us. They also distracted us, so much so that it’s taken us, collectively, quite a while to pick a winner. The Emdashes staff selected an absurdly long but heartfelt of finalists, and now Ben has picked his winner. Here is the glad announcement, and with it, our collective apology that we can be awfully slow. Punctuation makes us dizzy and loony. Sometimes blogging does, too. Thank you so much to all the clever writers and true punctuation lovers who entered the contest. And now: Ben Greenman! —Emily Gordon
To say that I agonized over this contest would be an understatement. I have spent weeks staring at these semifinalists, trying to decide how to elevate one and let the others fall away. Who should win? Who will win? When we started this competition months ago, we had no idea that so many people would write such passionate, funny, and insightful letters to pieces of punctuation. We should have guessed. The relationship between a reader and his or her punctuation starts early, and it doesn’t operate as a type of infatuation or opportunism, as the relationship between readers and words sometimes does. The love of (or love for) a piece of punctuation grows slowly, over time, until it is undeniable: a reader looks and wonders until there’s no option left but saying what is felt.
In the end, after weighing them all, I selected Letter #2, Nicole Rushin’s letter to the tilde, in part because she couldn’t remember its name (she’s flustered by love) and in part because she has perfectly identified the seam between passion and fashion. Ten years ago, no one cared about the tilde except for Spanish teachers. Ten years from now, it will have passed into oblivion again. But today, in the waning days of the strange http era, it is a kind of little king. The last four sentences of Nicole’s letter are especially poignant, and especially true. Congratulations to our winner and all our entrants.
Nicole Rushin’s winning entry, for which she will receive a signed and personally punctuated copy of Ben’s book:
I am embarrassed to say that I have forgotten your name. You came into my life one torrid night while talking to the abrupt, but helpful customer service rep from Blue Host. I remember it clearly. I hope this letter reaches you. Is it too forward to say how I love the way you look after my name? Please write back. I am sending this out in a bottle, posting it in the classified ads. We would could be so happy together, crashing the shores of our meaning against each other, forever. I know nothing about you, I don’t know what you do? Why do you exist? I just want to know you.
Hello! I’m Emily Gordon, an editor, critic, copywriter, and pre-web internet nut. Emdashes, born in 2004, spent many years as a New Yorker fan blog. The project garnered some nice compliments and press.
The blog’s now treading the territories of punctuation, publications, movies, design, and other things that stir me.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a brilliant brigade 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.
Jennifer Hadley designed the original Emdashes pencil logo, based on a 1943 Dorothy Gray ad.