Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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So You Love Punctuation? Write a Letter to Your Favorite Mark, and You Might Win a Copy of Ben Greenman's Brand-New Book!

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ben greenman book cover.jpg

Update: We’ve announced the finalists, and the winner!

We loved every single letter to every single mark. Thank you!

Ben Greenman’s new book, What He’s Poised to Do, was recently published by Harper Perennial, and critics are already hailing its mix of emotional sophistication and formal innovation. Just the tip of the iceberg: Steve Almond, writing in the Los Angeles Times, calls the fourteen stories in the collection “astonishing,” and Pauls Toutonghi at Bookslut calls them “beautiful”—even better, “a book so beautiful, you’ll feel mysteriously compelled to mail it to a stranger.

The book, in large part, deals with letters: how they are (or aren’t) effective conveyances for emotional intimacy and truth. Along with the book, Mr. Greenman has launched a site called Letters With Character, which invites readers to write letters to their favorite fictional characters—most recently, Alyosha Karamazov, Madame Psychosis from Infinite Jest, and Ernest Hemingway’s Yogi Johnson from The Torrents of Spring.

Here at Emdashes, we love letters (especially those sent through the postal mail), but there’s something we love even more: punctuation. Indeed, when we discovered that the upside-down question mark—as in ¿Qué?—had no official name, we challenged you, our readers, to rename it, and now the frequent (you wouldn’t believe how frequent) googlers who seek this information know the answer: it is the interroverti, all thanks to you.

In the same spirit, we’re combining two of our top-ten passions in life and challenging you to write a letter to your favorite punctuation mark, or perhaps one you find elusive, insufficiently loved, or sound but overexposed. Tell it anything you want: your fears, your frustrations, your innermost desires. Then put it in the comments section below so we can read it, too. Deadline: August 16. (We know all too well that it can take a bit of time to write a good letter—or even a telegraphic telegram.)

Here is a partial list of possible correspondents, with the current tally of blushing recipients marked in bold, and also ranked here in descending order of popularity: the acute accent, the air quote, the ampersand (3), the apostrophe (7), the asterisk (2), the at-the-price-of, the at sign (3), the backslash, the bracket, the bullet, the caret, the colon (3), the comma, the curly quote, the dagger, the dash ditto mark, the diaeresis, the dollar sign, the double hyphen (which is perhaps not what you thought it was), the ellipsis (10), the em dash (2)—toward which some jurors are slightly biased—or the en dash, the newly coined exclaquestion mark, the exclamation point (7), the full stop (2), the grawlix (2), the hyphen, the interpunct, the interrobang (2), the inverted exclamation point, the interroverti (formerly the inverted question mark), the little star, the macron, the manicule (2), the number sign, the parenthesis (((3))), the percent sign, the period (3), the pilcrow, the pound sign, the question mark (3), the quotation mark (or a pair of them), the controversial semicolon (7), the smart quote, the slash, the tilde (2), the underline, the Oxford comma, or any other mark close to your heart but not listed here. We will select the best letter and award the writer a signed copy of Mr. Greenman’s book, which may in fact contain the beloved mark in question. He may even add an extra one just for you.

Remember: Post your letter in the comments below by August 16, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of this exceptionally satisfying book of stories by one of our favorite writers. The best of the entry letters will all be collected in a post of their own, with sparkles, blue ribbons, and plenty of punctuation. If you can’t wait till mid-August to find out if you’ve won, and/or have friends who love letters and will love this book, of course, you can also order a copy.

Posting tip: You can use basic HTML tags to make line spaces; try the paragraph and break tags, as needed. If you don’t know how or would like our help, we are obsessive editor types and are happy to right the spacing for you.

Art note: The painting on the book cover is by Alyssa Monks, whose portraits of women and men and bodies and children and water and funny faces are scorchingly beautiful.

Factual 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.

Related posts and links:

Short Imagined Monologues: I Am the Period at the End of This Paragraph. [Ben Greenman, McSweeney’s]
Exciting Emdashes Contest! ¿What Should We Call the Upside-Down Question Mark?
Our in-depth coverage of punctuation—five years and counting!
More Emdashes contests, giveaways, and assorted bunk
Is That an Emoticon in 1862? [NYT/City Room]

comments are off


Dear Colon,

Does it ever bother you that you have the same name as the thing that produces excrement? It would bother me tremendously.


Dear Ampersand,

It is with great sorrow and regret that I write this letter to you. There’s no use beating around the bush, and, although it pains me tremendously to be so brisk and to the point with such a sensitive and precarious situation (and with you, my love, who can be so sensitive), I must be direct with you.

I have been demoted to a text-face. After many years in the force striving for legibility, this is how my efforts are rewarded. They tell me you’ll never leave the headline Ampersand, and, though I am the one being taken away, I cannot help but feel that you are the one being taken prisoner.

Alas, I would write you a thousand letters to bridge the gap, to survive — no, to thrive in the midst of! — this long-distance relationship. Distance does not daunt me. But, in time, there will be more than distance between us Ampersand. There will be other type-faces filling your headlines.

I was never one for sharing Ampersand, and I hope you’ll understand if, after more than a few headlines flaunt your charms, I find it hard to reunite. That being said, however, if, by some feat of The Editor you make your way into the body copy, I will be waiting.

Faithfully and Forever,

Your Type-Face

Dear Pilcrow,

I never heard of you. I had to go look you up. Now it turns out that I have known you for a long, long time. You’re the one that tells people there’s a new paragraph in legal documents. You should be proud of yourself. That is very useful. How do you make you? How do I make you is what I mean? Oh, option and then 7 works? Delightful. Nice to meet you.


Dear Parentheses,

Remind me what great Classical Greek dramas you wrote?

Dear Period,
You always come late—it’s scary.
Dear Tilde,
I named my dog after you
Dear Apostrophe,
Your name isn’t quite an anagram for potato horse

Dear Question Mark,

What’s your crazy twin brother’s name, the one who stands on his head, again? Was it Juan?


Dearest Oxford Comma,

I never write letters like this, but I just had to write to tell you what a big fan I am. I just adore your work. You keep lists so very orderly, just like I like them. How journalists get along without you I will never know. I don’t want to trouble you, but could you possibly send me an autographed photo of yourself? I’ve included a self-addressed stamped envelope to make it easier on you.

I remain your loving, faithful, and devoted fan,


Dear Ellipsis,

I haven’t slept in days…I was going to tell you something but I forgot what it was….Oh, wait…I remember…It was about that time that we were driving up the coast and we stopped at a little hotel…I am so tired…The woman who ran it was flirting with you, a little, and you were teasing me about how you might run off in the middle of the night with her…We laughed and laughed…About two months later we split up…I think we really loved each other…Anyway I think it’s time for me to go to bed…


Dear Exclamation point!

Mel Gibson has lately placed you in the forefront of the news. Too many times you have been used and abused by expletives. I don’t think you would have chosen to be at the end of Mr. Gibson’s sentences. His angry ranting sentences acted like they were entitled to have you at the end of every one of them! Why can’t his raging phrases calm down and give you a rest? I’m wishing a change for you; one that’s peaceful and calm. May you follow this word instead. Serenity!


Dear Quotation Mark.

Do you ever have any ideas of your own?


Dear Exclamation Point,

We call you Mark in England, which is a very common name indeed, as common as your lazy usage.

My question - how does it feel to be as overrated and ubiquitous as Britney Spears ?

Now go away, just because a word has you following it, doesn’t make it a musical !


My Dearest Ellipsis:

I have loved you since the first time I saw you elegantly linger on my page. So mysterious… so elusive… always hinting at the promise of a saucy detail left untold.

You are the perfect filler for when I am a little speechless. A sexy cliff hanger keeping others on the edge of their seats. You’re the “Yadda Yadda Yadda” of punctuation.

I know at times I abuse you, but I can’t help it. I try to use you sparingly, but your beauty sucks me in. You’re like a Siren’s song to me.

Now, about that restraining order…

Your devoted servant,

Ode to the Interrobang

Part skinny
Like Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Part voluptuous
Like Jennifer Love Hewitt.
You combine my two favourite marks
To be wholly necessary and thrilling at once.
Unlike Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Dear Curly Quotes,

We all know what “curly” means. You’re not fooling anyone.

I mean, your brother’s name is Straight Quotes. The contrast is obvious. And you’re always going shopping with Kristin Chenoweth.

Don’t worry, no one’s judging you.


Apostrophe, Apostrophe, wherefore art thou Apostrophe?

Dear Percent Sign,

What the hell are you? I mean, are you one thing, or three? And if you are three, does the little ball on top ever talk to the little ball on the bottom?


oh smart quotes, you think you’re so clever and pretty, but we both know you’re really just superficial and redundant.

Dear Full-stop,

I love you. Period.

Spiral ArchitectJuly 18, 2010

Dear Pound Sign,

Aren’t you the number sign, too? It’s like Superman and Clark Kent. The fact that people can’t tell you apart makes them the problem, instead of making you the solution. And now it’s just going to get worse, because you’re the hashtag sign, too. I liked it better when you were just the italic tic-tac-toe board.


Alas, Sir Manicule I knew you not well….. but I have long admired the way your stately presence used to grace a page in days gone by. You were very handy in pointing out the essence of a posting in a time when messages were passed by pole rather than by phone. Your like (emoticons not withstanding) will not be seen again. You are sorely missed.

A grieving punctuator

Dear Comma,

I feel guilty. Already I have used you once. Nay, twice. And what do I give you back? Nothing at all. You are line the unhappy girl forced to stand by while the man she lives toys with her affections. If that simile doesn’t stand up and salute, then join some other army. Some punctuation is hostile to digression, arousal, inebrieation—all of life’s pleasures, all of life’s life. I want to crush you but you give me pause.


Dear En Dash,

I am an en dash-lover but had to use a hyphen instead of you just then (between “dash” and “lover”) because, as you well know, you don’t exist on computer or typewriter keyboards. You don’t exist in newspapers, either: hence apparently nonsensical references to “non-English speakers” and the “New York-New Jersey rivalry.” (Rendering these phrases “non—English speakers” or “New York—New Jersey rivalry” shows that your big brother the em dash is even worse than a hyphen as a substitute for you.) Thankfully, the sign of a smartly copyedited book is still the judicious use of you. And it’s good to know that as long as crossword puzzles need two-letter words, you will never completely fade away.

Gotta dash now,


Dear Semicolon:

I wish you came with an instruction manual; knowing when to use you can be tricky. You have so many uses: to separate closely linked independent clauses, two ideas that barely need a breath between them; to separate items in a list, items that may include commas or other punctuation; or for independent clauses with a conjunctive word or phrase. The last use is my favorite; however, I don’t often get the chance to show it off.

Thinking of you, always; using you less so,


Dear Interpunct,

Do you remember me? Barcelona? June 17, 2010?

You: fashioned of beautiful obsidian, shining out from within the Catalan word “col•lecció” in the signage for the Centre de Documentació Col•lecció Sabater Pi.

You placed an interpunct between my past and my future: I want you to be my present. I want you to be a new period in my life.

Me: early 30s, glasses, red polo shirt, smelling like hand sanitizer. I smiled. You stared. We shared a moment. And then my bus emitted a loud squeak and continued lumbering down Baldiri Reixac Street, churning up fumes and dust, obscuring my view of you, my lovely point, spot, and speck.

In Catalan, they call you the “punt volat,” the flown dot. And indeed you’ve flown out of my life. Please fly back.



My sweet ellipsis,
so slight and mysterious, not revealing the thoughts you represent, tempting me to guess and wonder,
thank you for being the blank I fill with imagination and longing.
~ Chris

Chris Goethals July 19, 2010

Dear Semicolon:

I’m sorry. This has gone on too long.

You’re like a drug to me. I use you in at least half my sentences, and I just can’t get enough—but you make my fiction look like a treatise on Colombian exports. This has to stop. I need to find myself, and somehow learn to make my sentences shorter and my clauses less dependent on your presence.

I will always love you,


Dear Period,

Stop it.


Dear at-the-price-of,

You’ve changed, and not for the better. You’re so “modern” now. I used to be able to count on you, but you’ve lost your values.

gene weingarten July 19, 2010

Dear colon:

Who would have thought that your bastard stepchild, the semicolon, would get all the love? It’s got “semi” right in the name, for pete’s sake; it’s got its place for certain, but really, it’s just a half-version of you.

You’re the real deal, the full-on colon. You’re used sparingly, but when you are, it’s with purpose: you bring one thought to a halt, then fling us forward headlong into the next. People who only use you to set up lists or open business correspondence are missing out. Don’t let them make you feel bad. Every time I see you in mid-sentence, my heart skips a beat.


Dear Diaeresis,

I’m sorry you’ve had such a hard time of it lately. Your usage has gone way down in recent years, to the point that people make fun of The New Yorker for persisting with coöperate and reënter after everyone else has moved on. Sure, Chloë Sevigny finds you indispensable, but she’s in the dwindling minority.

Plus people always call you an umlaut. I speak German, dear Diaeresis—I know you’re not an umlaut. In fact, it just occurred to me that you are the very opposite of an umlaut. An umlaut makes one vowel sound out of a diphthong, whereas you ensure the speaker’s aspiration after the first vowel. Is it so naïve to want people to know that naïve has two syllables?

I fear that your trouble might lie in branding. Hardly anyone can pronounce “Diaeresis,” much less spell it. You should consider renaming yourself the plork, or the bizzoo, or the trinf. These days, you have to be catchy to capture the hearts of the public.

But maybe you don’t want to. Maybe you’re a bookish, retiring, pedantic sort. Tell you what: leave the koans to that airhead, Question Mark; the manifestoes to that attention hog, Exclamation Point. You’ve got your fans, wherever epitome is read aloud as a three-syllable word or the first note of awry hammered.

True, you’re not there to help on those occasions, but the small guidance you supply elsewhere is still appreciated.


Dear Bullet,

My word processor used to change you to an asterisk. Can you imagine the nerve? That’s like changing a swan to a pigeon, or a Pagani Zonda to a Yugo. A bullet has elegance. It moves through the air and then marks a spot with finality. Talk about punctuation! An asterisk is some kind of stupid flower of ink on the page. It looks like an accident, like someone messed themselves and tried to cover their tracks by insisting that it was purposeful. When I want my points designated or my lists divided, I vote for you: I pick the bullet with the ballot. Go away, asterisk. Stop confusing the issue.


Dear Grawlix,

I’m not sure if you are punctuation, though you are made of punctuation. You’re the string of symbols including but not limited to the exclamation point, percent mark, ampersand, asterisk, and at sign, and you are commonly used to designate profanity in comic strips. Instead of saying “eff off” or “I smashed my goddamned hand in the door,” you can just say “#!*@&%” or “I smashed my #!*@&% hand in the door.” So you are definitely a form of emphasis, and not really verbal. On the other hand, you’re not exactly like an exclamation point, though you could just say “!!!!!” and the effect would be similar. I don’t know. Big numbers are made up of small numbers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a thing made up of punctuation is punctuation. And so, you remain a mystery. You are a stand-in and a dodge and a coward and a hero. You let the id rage and let the superego sit serenely nearby. Anyway, #!*@&% you, grawlix. I hope that you get #!*@&% in the #!*@&% face. In a good way.


Dear Colon:

Did you like how I used a colon after your name? I did that on purpose. I like you a lot. Do you like me? Please check yes or no

_ yes

I need you to come to my house. Here’s why: my husband and I have a nephew. His name is Colin. We love Colin very much but for some reason whenever my husband writes his name, he write Colon. I’m not sure what bothers me more: The misuse of your name or the incorrect spelling of his sister’s child.

Between you and me, I know the difference. I also know about the whole “body part” thing. I refuse to denigrate you by talking about that.

Just know this: every list I make, every point I make, I’m thinking of you.


Hey*, Asterisk ~

What’s up? Got any insider scoop for me? I love the way you **highlight** important information and provide asides to clarify.
You’re a star.


* Do you ever question the spelling of the most commonplace words? Like right now, after looking at Dear repeated so many times, I want to spell it Deer, but know that’s wrong. So I went with Hey, which seems more appropriate, anyway, since we’re so tight. **ROTFLMAO**

Dearest Semicolon-

Vonnegut once called you a “transvestite hermaphrodite representing absolutely nothing.” You’ve been called girly, feminine, and (gasp) unmanly.

Are these supposed to be insults? Sounds like a bit of projection to me.

Those in the know enjoy your subtle talent; at times, you’re the only one who can get the job done.


Dear Little Star,
It’s been over two thousand years since we plucked you from the heavens. We first kept you in the margins for glosses and notes about stuff.

The typewriter era was your heyday, and you were again a star. Printers and writers would use your glamor to add ***excitement*** to ad copy and texts.

Getting a typewriter key in a classy neighborhood proved not to be a good move.

Consider your equally pedigreed friend, the Little Roasting Spit, used by the Greeks to condemn errors and bad lines. Printers liked him, but he never made the transition to the electric typewriter. I still can’t figure out how to type him in MSWord. Even though Johnny-come-lately Christians have adopted him as one of their own, he barely made it into the latest HTML standards († as ). Now he’s aloof, above it all, and has class.
Meanwhile, Little Star, the digital age has not been kind to you. Hawkers on e-Bay lather you around their “great e-Bayer” feedback. Spammers shill their Vic*din and Vi*gra with you. Everyone else drops you in their sh*t.

The good news? Even though you’ve got star billing on the phone dial, it takes a freakin’ 10 keystrokes on my phone to put you in a text-message. You are exclusive and yet everywhere, baby. To me, that spells icon, brand, and, yes, star. Do you have representation?


slip slowly between the words…

like dots between thoughts.

Dear At Sign,

I want to apologize; you were right. Back in 1885 when we appeared together on the first-ever American Underwood typewriter and I said, “Does it bother you that you are so seldom used?” and politely you replied, “No,” and said that there were ways other than frequency of usage to measure a mark’s potential value, I did not believe you.

I believe those were the only words I ever spoke to you. You were, if you recall, somewhat of a pariah among marks at the time. Many of us could not understand or justify your placement on the same key as “A” when the A.U. was first released (later, if I’m not mistaken, you were the Shift + key above the comma) and I suppose some of the criticism leveled against you arose out of our own insecurities. Although I do not believe that my initial question (“Does it bother you…”) was very far off base, I have, in the twilight of my career, realized that it likely came from a cruel place in my heart. For that, I would like to formally apologize.

There we were, all of us—including superstars like the period, exclamation and question marks, among others—at the fingertips of a game-changing technological breakthrough! The typewriter was going to renovate interpersonal communication and we, as individual symbols and collectively as a keyboard, were the utensils of that renovation. Yes, it was an exciting period for marks, but the atmosphere was undeniably harsh and highly competitive as well.

The problem you personally faced early on was one of ambiguous function and definition. Merchants developed you as a shorthand symbol for denoting the price per unit of a particular good (“each at” by definition, as in, John buys three cardigans each at [@] $49, costing him a total of $147). Unless merchants or shop-keeps had a need for a typewriter, you were rendered more or less obsolete, useless to the commercial world (imagine, James Joyce employing the At Sign!). Because what other function did you have? It should come as no surprise, then, that the other symbols, and, regrettably, I, did not take you very seriously as a mark.

I now see that you were just ahead of your time.

In 1971, when an American computer programmer named Ray Tomlinson sent the first-ever email (electronic mail), he used you (you!) to divide the electronic addresses of sender and receiver (the first half of the address identified the user and the second half identified the computer, as in, John@Computer.com).

You know the rest. Thirty-nine years later and you’re everywhere. Every day nearly every person in developed nations relies on you to send and receive information. You’ve been bumped to the top row of nearly every keyboard, usually above the “2” (although, on more state-of-the-art devices you have your own touch-key). Your name has been translated into several languages, including French and Norwegian. An entire article on your achievements appeared recently in the New York Times. To top it all off, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City even added you to its coveted architecture and design collection. Take that, ampersand!

I sit here typing, and I myself am on the verge of obsoleteness. (A number of factors both in and out of my control have contributed to my demise, and I will not bore you with them here.) But I will say that, while we’re all surprised and, to varying degrees, proud of your recent accomplishments, it behooves you to stop every once in a while and reflect on who and what you’ve become. Indeed, you have little or no control over your own appearance (tsk, tsk, China), and yet I still feel it is my duty to inform you of a certain “smirkiness” that has crept into your design, of which you may or may not be aware. And while I do not want to bog down this letter with criticism, I should warn you that some of the other symbols, whose names I will not mention, are not pleased with what they have described as your “unself-regulated ubiquity.”

It is not my intention to threaten you or to come across as a bitter, aging symbol. This is, overall, a positive correspondence. In light of our past, I feel it is my duty merely to keep you informed. Nonetheless, I do you respect you as a mark and believe, despite what the others say, that your success was overdue and well deserved.

So, here’s to you, At Sign. You did it. I wish you well.



Dear Ampersand,

Long have I admired and utilized your talents. Your gorgeous & delicate curve makes you striking & practical. Where so many have used a plus sign for the “and” shorthand, I have never wavered in my devotion to you.

These days it seems you have experienced an influx of use; not since the 1800s have I seen such wanton, public utilization of you. It’s that Twitter machine, I know. Where character use is limited, you, Ampersand, have once again been moved to the forefront of punctuation for your precious character conservation ways.

Have you forgotten me now that you are popular again? Just know that I will always be here for you.
Your faithful & eternal servant,

Dear em dash —

You truly are a girl’s best friend. Less formal than a semi-colon, softer than a period, more confident than an ellipsis—you’re the little black dress in my punctuation closet.

I can barely outfit a sentence—much less write an entire blog post—without coming back to you. Even after years of college and graduate school—first studying English education, then journalism—I’ve never found anything with a better fit than you.

Promise me we’ll never grow apart—I don’t know what I’d do without you.

Dear Underline,

As of this letter, your services will no longer be needed. In the present economy, the emphasis you provide, along with your heavy carbon imprint, is unnecessary and archaic. Not to worry, the Caps Lock key will henceforth cover your Southern territories, and, OMG, the freelance emoticons from Japan are so cool! ;)

Best of luck,

The Department of Redundancy Department

Julie MoraJuly 22, 2010

Dear Parentheses,

When did you guys stop grabbing at words and shack up with the colon? It’s making you look like you have emotional problems.


Dearest Ellipses…

I worry about you and sincerely wish you’d reconsider your dot limit. Don’t you ever want to break the rules just a tiny bit and linger for five or even ten staccato notes on the keyboard? I hate to see you cut yourself short when your possiblities are endless. An additional dot or two could open up whole new worlds of insight. Imagine, if you will, what that might feel like…..I wish to see you wild and free Ellipses; you are so much more than three dots, my love.

Forever yours,

R.O. Sentence


Stop being so half-assed.



Dear Mr. Macron,

We represent Underline, the owner of all right and title to the use of all straight curves (as posited in Euclidean Geometry) known as lines. These proprietary rights represent centuries of accumulated good will, and have been utilized in multiple languages to imply emphasis, sarcasm and derision.

It has come to our attention that you have been utilizing a similar “straight curve” design in order to indicate long or heavy vowels in several languages and in dictionary pronounciation guides. This confusing use of similar indicia as a diacritical mark represents (at a minimum) trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices. We demand that you immediately cease and desist from all use of extended points, straight curves, and other “lines” in your commercial linguistic activity. In order to amicably resolve this matter, we require written confirmation of your compliance with this demand no later than August 1, 2010.

Dear Ampersand,

Your existence has become more relevant than ever now that Twitter exists. Thank you for saving me the headache from going over 140 characters.

With love and respect,
A Twitter Addict

Grawlix, you !#*%,

So seriously, how does it feel? How does it really feel now that the truth is out? You can’t hide behind some weak-ass almost-OED cred anymore. It’s done. You’re done. Say bye to the closet.

Truth is, you’re not really punctuation at all, are you? You’re just some bastard assortment of real punctuation marks, originally assembled to blot out doody words by a probably-drunk cartoonist. And it ‘s probably the doing of your rich daddy — Mr. Ellipsis — that the OED is even thinking about letting you inside its hallowed pages. (They won’t, you know. They’ll just string your father along and collect his checks — sorta like you do.)

Face it, you $#!@ — you’re nothing without daddy.

You’re nothing even with him.

I’ve waited for this day when your shine peels off you like a cheap whore off an oil tycoon. Finally, the day has come.

Why don’t you and Mel Gibson get together and have a beer or thirteen. Hear he’s a huge fan of your work.

Oh, and also: eat a hot bag of %$#@!, you fraud. Karma’s such a bitch, and frankly, I’m loving it.

Warmest wishes for an eternity of shame,

Real Punctuation

Dear Em Dash,

You make my sentences beautiful—intelligent. I cringe when you are impersonated by a double hyphen—it makes me sick. I wish Adobe Illustrator would give you a keyboard shortcut command—then I could die happy.


Dear Ellipsis,

Quotation Marks told me the wonderful news - so happy to hear that you’re pregnant again!

The last time we met, I could sense that you had something to share, but you always seem more interested in batting your eyelashes flirtatiously than talking!

It seems like, just recently, you had a child. And weren’t you pregnant shortly before that? I would bend and break under the weight that you carry.

But, don’t worry; it doesn’t show, dear, and you still wear that polka-dot dress quite nicely.

How do you run the Sentence household with such grace? I never even hear your babies cry! Could you share your secrets?

I’m writing not only to congratulate you but to ask - could I be the father? I anxiously await your response.



Dear Tilde,

I must admit that I have come to loathe seeing you. It’s not frequently but yet enough to make my fingers stray far away from your high and mighty position on the top-left part of my keyboard. You’re at your worst on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Why must people insist to use you surrounding their thoughts? Like the phrase “going to the beach” is somehow more magical with you surrounding it. Hhmm, maybe it could be…

~ going to the beach ~

No, I stand my ground. Although I get distracted by your wavy coolness, I utterly detest these shenanigans you participate in. Make me proud and stand up for yourself next time.

Wishing you well,

Dear Exclamation Point,

Some people have dyslexia? They don:t know which letters go where, I have dyspunctia] I am fine with letters but totally helpless when it comes to punctuation\Sometimes I get it right by accident.

I like you*exclamation point because you are so solid-You stand up for yourself; Sometimes people with a problem are afraid to ask for help^


My dearest Parens,

I love you (as a means for making interjections you are unmatched (a pair of dashes can be so abrupt (not like your delicate curve (a whispered opus (I imagine leaning into you (cupped betwixt your gentle symmetry (like a footnote with the grace to remain in the text (nothing to hide (never an afterthought (I long to match your delicate confidence)))))))))).

Yours eternally,


Dear Apostrophe,

You are the ghost of a letter, hovering over the spot where it once was. You are the ember of a letter, rising off of the site where it was burned. You are also possessive, but I do not like thinking of you that way.

You are not a sin of omission. You are a virtue, and a love of omission.


Dear Accent Aigu,

You change the meaning of words and sounds with your appearance, and bring the present directly into the past with a single stroke. You have changed my romantic (language) life.

I have loved you for so long in French that I think I cannot even use you to express my love in a verb form (parce que je t’aimais depuis des anneés), and then you appear without warning, as loyal and loving as you have always been, bringing an instant of unexpected joy to an otherwise quiet day. Your brother Accent Grave is a dear friend, but he cannot take your place in my heart.

I love you in Spanish, as well, where your brother does not go and cannot come between us. Nunca me olvidaré de ti, y quiero pasar toda la vida contigo.


Dear Asterisk;

You look like Kurt Vonnegut’s asshole.
I love you anyways.


Dear Hyphen,

I really enjoy putting you in places you don’t belong. Never lose your bringing-it-all-together spirit. Have a great-but-not-so-great-that-you-turn-into-a-tilde summer!

With down-on-my-knees love like Otis Redding, Ben

Dear Semicolon:

You bastard! Here I am trying to come to terms with a very complicated feeling, jamming along on a needlessly protracted sentence that conveys tremendous sensation and is often quite difficult, and you come along and interrupt my ruminations! How dare you! You’re the asshole who steals my cab at the airport! The sleazy middle-aged dude in the leisure suit who hits on my girl! I want to kick your ass, but you somehow manage to sprint away just in time. And then when I go around the neighborhood to find you, you’re ensconced in one of my goddam sentences! You treacherous bastard! For fuck’s sake, can’t you come out of the story and fight like a man?

Your stepbrother, the colon, that punctuation mark who popped out of the uterus from the one who DOESN’T HAVE the drinking problem, at least has the courtesy of depositing his ass in with a little bit of finesse. He’s classy. He knows how many martinis to drink before placing his hand over the glass and telling the bartender, “No more!” But of course, WE CAN’T USE HIM. Because that fucking English writer specializing in displaced expatriates ALWAYS used him.

So what are we going to do here, sir? Will you learn how to sneak into my sentences with a bit of class? Or is it always going to be the textual equivalent of sloppy seconds? Surely, there’s a way for us to smooch and make up; a way for us to kiss and tell. See! There you go again! You forced me to type an extraneous phrase!

For fuck’s sake, you don’t even LOOK good! I’ve seen teenagers with a better fashion sense! I’ve seen people who have never stepped inside of a gym with a better corpus!

And yet, let’s face the facts, you’re really goddam necessary in a pinch. You make me angry, but it’s a loving form of fury. Perhaps my indignation is directed inward and I’m letting loose all this steam upon you. And maybe you’re really needlessly bitter towards me because so many writers shit on you.

You know, it occurs to me, Sem. You may be a bit ostracized right now. But writing styles could very well change in the next decade. I hope you’ll pardon my early paragraphs. It’s very hot right now and the weather won’t return to 70 degrees in quite some time. Let me just say that I can’t quit you, baby.

Very truly yours,

Edward Champion (your angry love slave)

My dear Ellipsis…

I… I don’t know what to say. My feelings for you are… hard to clarify. You allow me to express uncertainty, fear, hesitation and… and… love.

Your cousin the dash makes pausing so - blunt - and unromantic.

But you my… my sweet ellipsis. Can you…? Can you hear it in my voice? I’m… I’m just blushing at the thought of you…

You make me feel like… like a nervous schoolboy. Unable to find the right words… halting and stammering… taking three nervous, perfect little steps towards… you. My love…

I… I love you ellipsis.



Oh no…

Ellipsis, please…!

You can run from me…

But I will follow this tiny little trail you have left…

Back to the beat beat beat…

Of your dot dot dot…

Back to your heart…

S …

Dear interrobang,

I can only imagine the suffering in your heart as a cruel society lives on largely in ignorance of your very existence.

And I can only imagine this suffering has grown tenfold since the rise of netslang and tweet-sized righteous indignation has made your jaunty combination of surprise and interrogation so painfully relevant.

“WTF?!” they cry, unaware that one piece of long-since discarded punctuation could easily stand in place of the cumbersome two.

And “WTF‽” I cry too, every time someone sees me rocking my classy interrobang t-shirt and asks what that symbol means.

Just know that I care.

WTF indeed, cruel world. WTF indeed.

Dear Ellipsis,

As a young journalist trying to find my way around in the real world, I’ve had to write stories about (almost) everything under the sun to gain experience. I’ve interviewed farmers that grew a record-breaking sized pumpkin, adamant politicians and young teenagers who insert like in between every other word in a sentence (just to name a few).

Ellipsis, you are a lifesaver when it comes to making people sound more intelligent. You are loving and nonjudgmental when you take the quote “It was like, ohmigawd, an amazing experience!” and change it to “It was … an amazing experience!”

I will never underestimate your dot-dot-dot power because your ability to turn ramblings into short and concise sentences is a force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps one day you will reveal all that you’ve hidden. I do trust that you will wait until the time is right. Oh, Ellipsis, you must be incredibly wise with all that you know.

I am eternally grateful for you, Ellipsis. Please take good care of yourself.

Yours truly,


P.S. Please send my regards to Square Brackets as well. Both you and Square Brackets make quite the team when it comes to journalism.

Dear Air Quotes,

Not a day goes by that I don’t rely on your versatility and expressiveness. Without you I would have to find new words to help convey my cynicism. My sarcasm would be blunt, constant, and cruel. You have gotten me through many a business meeting while allowing me to keep a straight, respectable face, since I can make you under the table. I can use you on phone calls with abandon. You are my secret, constant, forever love.

Yours always,

Dear Ellipsis,

I know we have been more than friends for a long time, but, I am struggling to truely grasp you… I am continually wanting more from you, I feel lost in the eeire silence… I know that if we could focus more on the future, everything could be completed without very much effort…

I think I love you…

Dear apostrophe,

You were so special to me, once. A punctuation mark of many talents, you allowed others to show possession. You lent yourself to words who had unfortunately lost a letter of their own. You even occasionally helped out when the odd author needed to convey a quote within another quote. Such the philanthropist.

But lately, apostrophe, you’ve become involved with the wrong crowd. Far too often I’ve seen you with that troublemaker S, sneaking him into words in which he doesn’t belong. When I saw you two together on that sign at the grocery store advertising “Fresh banana’s,” I wept openly.

Apostrophe, come back to me. I long for the day when you can again be mine, and I yours.

With love alway’s, Zach.


Zach FowleJuly 23, 2010

Hey, interrogation mark … why are you always questioning me?


Dear semicolon,
I am writing this letter because you are a star; you shine the brightest in the punctuation sky.


Dear @,

You’re called the “at sign.” I always want to call you the “at-sign.” My friends call you “that circle a thing,” “at symbol” or simply “at.”

But in Spain, you’re called “arroba.” In France, “arrobase.” Esperanto calls you “heliko.” In Italy, you’re “chiocciolina.”

I think we should call you “chiocciolina.” It’s not any weirder than “diaeresis.”

Best wishes,


P.S. Send my regards to the quotation marks, whom I’ve employed quite liberally.

Dear Manicule,

It’s Quick Tip. Behind you.

Hallo! Over here!


Never mind. Fine.

So what’s so all-important over there?

Dear Exclamation Point,
All right, it was fun for a while. You added excitement and punch to simple sentences, sentences my first writing teacher liked to call “pancake-flat”. You jazzed up the printed remark. You made upward inflection sexy, then gauche, then sexy again. You even struck out on your own, gathering in groups to form a statement of “I don’t know what the fuck else to say, this should explain it all” shock (!!!!)

But seriously. Enough.

Cease and desist. Go into retirement. You’re in the business of glossing over ordinary sentences to make them sound peppier, more important, or more memorable than they actually are. Smoke and mirrors, my friend. The sparkling cover on the terrible book. How much of a kickback are you getting?

When the English language sits down and does its audits, you know it’s going to make layoffs. Everybody else is. And they’ll figure out that NOBODY NEEDS YOU. The question mark invites the reader to imagine, the colon and semicolon and comma have saved my ass in many a long sentence, the period is as old as God, the ampersand doesn’t do much anymore but it’s eccentric enough to get tenure. And what the fuck are you? A random cheerleader at a football game.
(Observe: if the last sentence had read “A random cheerleader at a football game!” it would just sound like I was trying too hard.)

You know who used exclamation points? Hitler. Lots and lots of them. And I know it’s unfair to invoke Hitler in an argument, because that name just makes all other points moot, but this isn’t an argument. Think of it more as a restraining order. For your own good. Honor it in a timely fashion.


Dear semicolon,

Thanks for so many things; but extra special thanks for being a great conversation starter when my hair is in a pony tail.

Yours, Rach

Dear Mr. Full Stop.
I never see enough of you.

O apostrophe!
Through you I possess, contract.
“Plop,” quote in a quote.

Dear Ellipsis,
Others may say they love you, but I…I truly love you.
Others hide their love when you and your users are ridiculed. But not me…I sing out my love for you…and my respect for you.
You generously provide so much more than an indication of an omission from a quote.
You provide a more significant and, yes, a more romantic pause than commas…and you know how commas want to hog it all.
You provide more connection than a silly straight line…no matter how long or short… or a single dot that wants to firmly end everything.
Long live ellipses…
Love now…and forever, Carol

exclamation point!
overused though you may be
i do love your look!

Dear Semicolon,

It’s hard for me to say this. But we’ve known each other long enough - and I think that our connection is deep enough - that I must.

I’m writing because I’m concerned about your future. No matter what I do, or how I try, my students can’t seem to learn to use you. It’s superficial, really; they see you, and they see only a comma.

Disappointing, I know. And I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this. But I didn’t want it to be a surprise.


Dear Apostrophe,

I love your jaunty ways. Even in the eighteenth century you were the sign of a waggish character, like Squire Western’s in Tom Jones, the huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ type. You’ve flavored the speech of so many of literature’s most attractive rebels. You’ve always been a little bit subversive, and delightfully so.

But I’m writing to ask a favor of you. Somehow or other you’ve got to prevent yourself from landing in the possessive form of “its”. I’ve noticed you popping up in there more and more frequently over the years. Much as I love you, much as I’m willing to forgive, there really is such a thing as going too far.



Maria BustillosJuly 24, 2010

Dear @,

You are quite the tart, showing up at everyone’s email address. I mean really, you get around. It’s disgusting the way you just seem to be everywhere. Have you no shame? What happened to the days when you were a discerning figure who was only available to those who had money? What, accountants are no good anymore?

You are such a snail, a monkey tail, a little mouse, you dog! I hate you, and yet I cannot live without you!

Oh my strudel…

TO: The Period
FROM: Western Union

Regret that telegrams never used a period STOP Official standards required replacing period with word stop STOP This was true for entire history of the telegram despite efforts to stop stop STOP Powers that be made sure that efforts to stop stop stopped STOP Happy to report that in 2006 use of telegram came to a stop stopping use of stop STOP Repeat there will be no more telegrams period STOP

Western Union

Dear brackets,

I miss you. There was a time I could count on you to summarize verbose friends on message boards but you’ve decided to work in code. What we had was beautiful but I hope that you’re happy.


Dear exclamation point,
I am not sure what I’d do without you! You add life. You add pep. You add passion and positivity and volume and fun to what can, by some, be considered a confusing and dark and meaningless existence. You are like a smile on paper.
I’ve heard them talking, those punctuation purists who object to your presence. Some claim using you too frequently is considered poor writing, others that you reduce the meaning of a text.
I disagree! You are here to add value, not take it away! So don’t feel badly. Don’t worry about what they say. I am not afraid to use you, liberally, frequently. I am on your side!

Dollar $ign
Wall Street

Dear Dollar:

You are so smug. Not only do you run our lives, you think you run the world.

Oh, I know some people can’t get enough of you. Some even die for you. Well, between you and me, you’re only money, pal.

Did you know that according to Freud money is feces? Does that give you a slight hint as to your real worth? Why do you think they call it grumus merdae? Behind every great fortune is a crime, said Balzac. In other words, you stink!

What about dollar diplomacy? Dollar days? Dollar a year men? Phony as a two-dollar bill.

Almighty, my ass! You’re as fickle as Dow Jones in August/High as a balloon (mortgage) on the Fourth of July.

Don’t look back—the euro might be gaining on you!

Not to mention the Renminbi. Chin-chin, old boy.

Whenever you get an inflated sense of your own worth, just remember you too can be devalued.

Or exchanged.

Up yours, Richard Lingeman

PS. And don’t try to tell me you’re not a punctuation mark.

Dear Exclaquestion Mark,

Since you are two punctuation marks I love using but don’t know what to call, I’m naming you as Exclaquestion mark. Actually, I learned using you from Chess annotations. When chess games analysts like me see you after a move, (ex: QB3!?) that means a surprising move. While the reverse ?! means dubious. I thank the Chess world I now use you in composing manuscripts. If I use the ! mark, it might be too extreme an expression. So if I want to express mild surprise, then you’re the perfect mark. And I don’t find you as forgettable as the poor semicolon.

Poch Peralta

Dear Apostrophe,

You don’t really know me, but I’ve watched you from afar. I hope that this doesn’t scare you but you scare me, apostrophe. You see I’ve always been a little intimidated by you. I wish I wasn’t. You don’t make anyone else I know feel this way. I’m awkward around you. I can never remember how to say that things belong to the Jones’s (Jones’?). The plural ‘s’ is confusing.

But I am willing to change. I promise you I’ll be less afraid. And maybe even wiki you.

Dear Obelisk,

They call you a dagger, but you’re not a dagger. You’re like an asterisk evolved — they use you when they’ve already had an asterisk. But you’re also like a little tiny cross, and you’re used to indicate death-dates. All of these things lead me to believe that you should be experiencing a resurgence on the heels of this crack-brained vampire craze. You look like a stake and a cross both. I would think that kids would go nuts with obelisk this and obelisk that. Kids are sheep that way. I hope this comes true. Otherwise, I am not sure what future you have, and I would hate to see you used to indicate your own death date.


Dearest Parentheses (or, now that we’ve gotten to know each other rather intimately, can I call you Parens?),

You are a God-send (truly) to me as a writer (adled with ADHD). Why, you may ask (though I don’t know why you would, you know me so well, with thought after thought bursting through my head that needs brackets around them or else they would burst the sentence dam [if you will] and ruin my writing forever [th0ugh, truth be told, my writing always is ruined anyway], me, bubbling like a word geyser)?

Because you sooth my sentences (like nothing else can), give it form and shape and function (like shade on a bare lightbulb). Without you, dear parens, my writing would burn into ash, leaving nothing more than thoughts that could have been (but weren’t).

I can’t live without you (who could?!) and I’m so very happy that you’re in my life (don’t leave, really, or else I’m screwed on this whole writer life that I have festooned warmly in brainpan).

All the best,

(Your Friend) Jonathan S.

Ode to Nº

Quite plainly it just reads No.
The “o” is elevated so.
More popular some years ago,
An anachronistic symbol; whoa.

It precedes a number, though
Most use the sign of tic-tac-toe;
Sharp, as most musicians know;
Pounds, when après weight. Oh no!

A line of elegant script can flow
And writ sophisticatedly so
Before the blank to let one know
How many to the soirée go.

In Word to make the symbol show
One need not be a computer pro.
Hold down ALT, 2,1,1,6. Let go
And there you have a Numero.

Dear Copyright symbol,

It has to be tough being you. You are an enforcer. Let’s face it- you are the Police of symbols. You show up and we know you mean business.

I’m sure it is an arduous and thankless job to serve the public with an iron C. I wanted to send you a quick letter of recognition.

I don’t know if the many would-be victims of plagiarism have really stepped up and thanked you for your mission to protect and serve.

If it were possible to award a symbol a medal of honor or hold some sort of $1,000-a-plate benefit, you Copyright symbol, you would be the guest of honor.

Thanks for holding it down.



My dear ellipses…

You are three points and I am only one. You are brave, hiding the unspoken, clinging to the notion that there are words beyond these words. Because there are words right behind our surfaces, lurking and speeding, angling just right. You are like the tiny white flowers on my spider plant, blooming during the sun shining hours and disappearing at night. But we both know they are right there, all baby blooms and flashy subtexts. In all of this sobriety, you are the addictions laying just under my flesh. You are the death of a infant hummingbird, it’s tiny wings and long feet feathers. It died because it couldn’t live in captivity any longer, but it was much more than that. It is always much more than that. You are the tears we cry, loneliness biding it’s time, slow and burning. We come back to each other because I’m too scared to write it all out, because I’m too nervous to have it all out on paper. And there you are, ellipses, always there for me when I need you.

This is a love letter, an ode to your strength, an elegy to your beauty.

How I love thee…

Quinnie KenworthyJuly 27, 2010

Dear Apostrophe,

How do you go on living, when you are so sorely abused? Always in the wrong place, missing when you should be there, on the wrong side of the ‘s’. Your complex relationship with possessives and plurals has relegated you to the edge of society. Once so popular and respected, your demise is a sad story of modern day callousness and neglect. Come and live with me, and I promise to nurture and love you and always use you well.

Your loving,

Dear Copyright symbol

I used to know you well when we shared the same apartment block and you and your wife, Imprint, lived next door to that big guy, Publisher, who refused to leave your side and gave you protection from the bullies who tried to steal your stuff. (whew, ran out of Punctuation there.)

I hear things are a bit rocky? That even good people just don’t give you the same respect anymore. Used to be, if they wanted to borrow your stuff, they’d ask you very politely, even write you a letter. In fact, I remember when Publisher’s younger sister asked you if you wanted to try an open marriage and take your stuff and go live with her in New York for a while. (I got those kind of offers (I did!), but the furthest I got was Abbey Road.)

Now, nobody even bothers to ask you your opinion or whether you want to go anywhere. They just want your stuff and say “Stuffit” or “Winzipit!” and surf away with it. They could care less if you’re empty handed and empty pocketed?

Well, old man, the only way you’re going to get that Respect back is to do a deal with the little sods. (I hear Wylie’s a pretty good agent; he may be able to help you).

I know what I’m talking about.

Respectfully yours,

LP Vinyl

Dear Asterisk,
Twinkle, twinkle little “star.”
What a wondrous thing you are.
Your presence demands my rapt attention
and takes me to a new dimension
where explanations make points clear
and renders my love for you more dear.


Sherlock139July 28, 2010

Dear hyphen,

Remember when I took you as my own on my first day at St Mary’s High School? There were so many Marys in that class that I decided on the spur of the moment to add my second name to my first and become Mary-Helen. Never mind that half the class, meeting me for the first time, thought my name was Mary Helen Fitzhyphenated – I kept insisting that people use you. Ignorant people recording my name sometimes use an underscore, and it hurts. It’s not elegant, it looks clumsy and it’s plain wrong. And using two of you to simulate an en-dash – what’s that about? Ugliness, that’s what.

Over the years I have been faithful to you; our relationship has marked me as unique. I’ve never met or heard of another Mary-Helen – although, weirdly, there is a Mary Helen with the same last name as me in the US, around my age and with a background similar to mine. (But she doesn’t have you and so this is not about her.) You are so underappreciated – how else would we be able to distinguish between a small arms dealer (a person of low stature who deals in guns) and a small-arms dealer (a person of any stature who deals in pistols)? I miss you so much – we both know that you are sometimes crucial between adjectives, but who even knows what an adjective is any more, let alone why you are so important?

They misuse you, they abuse you, and they neglect you. Only the faithful few continue to advocate for you: the John-Pauls, the Mary-Anns and that strange Grace-Louise I met once.

But there is an upside to being kind of insignificant and taken-for-granted: at least the greengrocers haven’t noticed you.

Yours forever,


Dear Question Mark,

If you had eyes, they’d be searching. If you had hands, they’d be reaching out. You want more. I want to give you more. We all do. We want to put your restlessness to rest. I remember when I first learned about you. You were the first punctuation I ever met. I used to ask my father, “Why do I have to go to sleep?” and “Why are some dogs bigger than others?” I wasn’t using you the way I later came to use commas and hyphens and apostrophes and dashes — because someone told me to. I was using you because I needed you. I still do.


My En,

When I was a child, I couldn’t have dreamed of you.

I knew the hollowed-out twangy slap of the period hitting straight down the line. I was learning to appreciate the smooth curve of commas lapping against words. I could close my hand around both, then uncurl my fingers to find sparkling against my skin the semicolon. I didn’t see you, because I didn’t know you even existed to be seen.

When I was a child, I behaved like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. I fell in love with the em dash. I know you don’t like to hear that, but of course it’s true. I was an adult, but a new one. I drank wine only if it was golden or blushing, and sweet as candy; I found myself in places that played jazz, but I recognized the song only as “that one on The Cosby Show!”; I bought a belt and I tucked in, but I didn’t have an iron.

That’s what we all did at that age! We owned real thoughts and things, but we were still playing dress-up. Em dash was a part of that. Em taught me that there was something bigger than the hyphen out there, that the world didn’t have to stop with the period, pause only for the semicolon. Em was sophisticated but palatable—yes, all right, the em dash was easy.

But now, of course, mellowing into fuller adulthood, I understand you, En, I want you. I know you. You reach out, striving always for another part not of the world but of yourself, seeking, holding on. And that is what I admire. You make me want to be a better me, because I see you always trying to be a better, more complete, you.

Dear Comma,

I have loved you ever since I can remember, especially back in my high school days when I was forced to write that essay about some topic of another one’s choice.

I love to use you during my writing days of today, I use you to separate dates, intros, AH! moments, and other items that come to mind, BUT, there comes a time for me to say, “ABUSE IS NOT ALLOWED!” I love you comma.

Your true fan,

Dear #

You’re really something!

Signifying nothing.

I loveyou [to typesetter: please insert # before ‘you’]

An editor

Dear #

Please can you ask emdashes.com to insert you before my salutations.

They are sitting out on a limb, feeling disconnected.

Thanks very much,


Dear comma,

Perhaps it says something
that I saw you hanging there off a bridge,
and I did absolutely nothing at all
in fact ignored you altogether
so as not to upset the flow of my habit

I am deeply sorry for this

I know that were things different
and I found you as a coma
hanging no more but in all the finality of the word
I’d have spent some time pondering you

but even so
as it is
I see it happening again
even now

-Keith S. Wilson

Dear Punctuation Marks,

To all the punctuation marks out there I wanted to write to you to say I have a love-hate relationship with you. I love you for making words and sentences come together and flow on a page which make it so easy and enjoyable to read. However, I also despise you punctuation marks! Always having to be in the proper place and used at the right time in a sentence. Teachers will mark off if I dont put you in your correct spot while friends don’t care if I use you correctly or not. So I leave you with this, keep up the good work but dont be offended if I don’t use you all the time.

Dear three dots,
I realy like you a lot, especially at the end of a sentence when we add a fourth. If you want to get together sometime….


Dear Semi Colon,

You are my one true love, and it took all of my strength not to use you after the salutation. I have grown so tired of the overuse of your cousin, comma; if more people only understood your purpose your fame would grow. I think of all the great writers you could have made greater; if Hemingway had ever fell for you I wouldn’t have had to reread his run on sentences 3 times before I understood them.

You will always be my one true punctuation love.

Dear Ellipsis…

How do I love the? Let me count the ways…

Thanks for always being there for me,

Dear ~,

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.

Nicole ~

Dearest Question Mark,

Why won’t you leave me alone? You rack my brain all day, you keep me wondering all night, and even this morning you woke me up with your persistence. Well, I guess I’m stuck with you for the rest of my life. Right?

On the flip side, life would be unbearably dull without you. After all, what would life be without curiosity?


Dear Exclamation Mark,

I want you to know that I love you very much. Anything I’m about to say is voiced from love and from a desire to see you happy.

I’m worried about you. You’re everywhere, repeatedly. You don’t seem to know when it’s time to quit. You show up, uninvited, shouting, sometimes inappropriately. You’re showing signs of mania. And because of that mania, you’re losing your charm, your validity, your clout.

I’d like to help you. I would. But first, you have to accept that there’s a problem, that you’re burning the candle at both ends, that you don’t know when to stop.

Please. I want to see you happy and properly appreciated. I know that these are hard times of ALL CAPS and easy over use. But listen, ease up a little. Take a break. Make sure you’re in the right place before you go emphasizing everything.

I’m here for you. And I love you.


Dear ;

You will never be ‘semi’ to me; I love you more than all the other marks.

I know it must be hard living underneath :. He can be such a jerk sometimes.


Dear Ampersand,

I guess they don’t need you in Spanish, do they?


Dear Ellipsis …

I love you now and will forever hence …
For your simplicity and your odd elegance …
… the sense of mystery marked by your appearance:
Dark disasters could lurk in our future …
Or perhaps boundless joy, peace and endless pleasure?
With you, dear Ellipsis, one never knows for sure …

Dear Comma,

I love you, really I do. I love to use you in stories and you always seem to make any sentence better.
But really comma? Can’t you make up your mind about when I should and shouldn’t use you?
Grammar check is always getting on my case and this needs to be settled.
So please, if grammar check is right, just tell me. I can handle it. But if I’m right, could you beat grammar check up for me?

Much love,
Z. Marquis

Zephyr MarquisJuly 31, 2010

August 1, 2010

Dear Interrobang,

What the heck is going on here (interrobang) Neither my keyboard nor spellcheck recognize your existence, and your name is much too long to just insert at the end of a sentence. I suspect you are some sort of symbolic mutation like brackets, or perhaps a hybrid like the confusing semicolon.

Whatever your origins, I suggest you might find a more hospitable sentence structure in the Spanish dialect, where at half of you could precede a sentence and the other half end it. Of course, you would have to decide which half got top billing.

I know what you’re thinking: sometimes a question is both rhetorical in nature with a parallel need to be stated emphatically. Although obscure, you are not without occasional application. Unfortunately, in the world of online forwards and pdf files, there is no provision for hand annotated punctuation. Regretfully, although I would love to use you, it would appear you are destined to go the way of a close cousin, Esperanto, the proposed “universal” language, which sprouted but failed to bloom. To be brutally honest, without a designated keyboard position, or even a second-fiddle shift key, I’m afraid you’ve been forever relegated to a Google search.


Linda S. Beckman

Linda Diltz BeckmanJuly 31, 2010
Dear “Quotation mark”,

I have long had a crush on you. I think you’re really amazing. I love the way you can only be a part of a pair - unless incorrectly used - because I think it’s quite romantic. Of course, this isn’t the only reason I’m quite hopelessly in love with you. There are so many other reasons that I think you’re “rad”.

From your oh-so-smooth positioning around my favourite quotes to your mischevious streak when you make euphamisms out of perfectly innocent words…even the way you occasionally deny you know me. Oh, sure, quotation mark - I “hate” you too.

It’s brilliant the way you mask other meanings, and even more brilliant when you are incorrectly used and I end up laughing when I pass signs reading “Get your “hot” coffee here”. You’ve got nerve, quotation mark, and I know the while less subtle than your buddy exclamation mark, I know you secretly long to be the class clown.

So quotation mark, I have to ask…are you worried? Recently I’ve noticed people seem to be phasing you out, using ‘apostrophes’ to bracket their words. Never fear - even when the world forgets you, I’ll be standing right there alongside you, and your buddy, the air quote, until the day I die.

Lots of “love”,

Dear Semicolon,

The day I received one of my first English papers back after grading was one of the hardest in my life; it was the day it occurred to me everybody hates you. It’s nothing personal (obviously; you aren’t even a person), but it’s the truth. Do not ask me why; I have ever been able to figure out this enigma. However, it was that day that I took it upon myself to take action on your behalf; it’s what you deserve, right?

From that day on, I swore to give you the tender love and care you deserve; your harsh and lonesome past spoke out to me. Nobody deserves to be treated the way you were; ignored and bored, you needed a change so I took you under my wing. Now, I just can’t keep my hands off of you; you are my one and only love. Please be mine forever; no one else will even take you in.

Your love,

Dear Comma,

Please stop sticking yourself where you don’t belong. You think it’s funny and my students are only too happy to sneak you into their run-on sentences as if YOU — measly, weakling little you — had enough strength to join two independent clauses.

Semi-colon has been too polite to complain, and Period is choked up about it, but they are the marks who have the fortitude and authority to tame those renegade clauses. All you do is masquerade your way into the sentence as a comma splice and make students think a pause is as good as a full stop. In flagrant disrespect for order, these sentences then brawl their way through the paragraphs, stampeding like wild beasts.

Stick with the dependent clauses, Comma. They need you so much more, and that is whom you were designed to complement. You just need to face the fact that you are what you are. Learn to love yourself and stop putting on airs.

A frustrated English teacher

Sharon ElinJuly 31, 2010

Dear Ellipsis:

Last night, when you showed up in the email from the love of my life, you were like fingerprints across my heart. He was claiming his love for me, and for the first time mentioned our future while placing you firmly at the end of his thoughts…the possibility of more was intoxicating!

For what you represent to me is a future of bliss, of an exciting unknown, of possibilities. I have you to thank for making our relationship so exciting, so full of possibilities…so unknown…

Until later, ellipsis…


Querida @*%#&,

You know who you are. There’s something I want to tell you, but I don’t want you to get offended, OK?

The first time I met you, I thought you were pretty ridiculous.

With my five-year-old eyes, I just didn’t understand what you thought you were doing hangin’ out in a bubble above some cartoon figure’s head like you actually had something to say! I thought you must be some kind of @%#*-up.

But, with age comes perspective. Now I recognize you for who you really are: you’re an invaluable collection of punctuative symbols that, standing together, allow a girl to write what she means without getting dirty looks from her boss/partner/friend/co-worker/mother/grandparent/blog-readers for it later. You’re a real reputation-saver.

Look, Grawlix, I just want you to know that I love you for who you really are. Underneath that mask of yours lies a whole host of real gutsy say-what-you-mean kinds of words that you rarely share, but often hint at. Maybe I didn’t understand you back in the day, but I do now.

Here’s to the collection of *%@#-ing special punctuative characters that you are!


La chica with the sailor’s mouth

Dear Ellipsis:

I don’t know how to say it … You’ve helped me fill out comment boxes without really saying anything concrete. I hesitate … I pause … and you’re there ready to fill in for me. I just don’t know who to say what I really feel … Well, I hope you’ve figured it out …

R BiscochoAugust 01, 2010

my dear dear marks

i beg of you please come back to me

yes i know i dont deserve you and that when you were in my life and my writing i abused you horribly sometimes i ignored you ignored your piquant cries for a small breathing space between sentences or those cute little breaks in the middle of sentences those sweet tender commas and those funny semicolons that always broke me up when things got too confusing and complicated the hyphens the em dashes even the ellipses as i struggled for what words to say next

im sorry i humiliated you those times i made you line up three or four of you in a row like some tawdry aristocrats joke that turned you into smileyface emoticons colon hyphen close parentheses i know now that was wrong of me so wrong but so many others were doing it too yes i know thats a very poor excuse i can only say im sorry and no i really dont think substituting a p makes it look like somebody with their tongue stuck out, and no a semicolon instead of a colon isnt really some idiot winking im sorry i see now the error of my ways i can only promise if youll come back to me ill never do it again

ive joined a support group of punctuation abusers maybe youve heard of it its called eaa emoticon abusers anonymous we meet in a church basement and we drink bad coffee and tell each other how weve mistreated and ignored and abused those punctuation marks in our lives who were always nearest and dearest to us and who didnt deserve the shame and neglect we gave them its a 12step program and the first step is to acknowledge that there is a higher power in grammar that gives strength and coherence to our lives no its not exactly like a religion and its nondenominational it doesnt matter what your faith is whether it be chicago manual of style or mla the ap style book strunkwhite that eatshootsleaves lady fowler second edition of course not the third garners modern american usage we come from all creeds and belief systems but we have to acknowledge some higher power then we have to try to make amends for our past punctuation abuses and sins so yes this letter is one of my steps on my way to recovery as we say in eaa the punctuation works if you work the punctuation

i realize now all the times i neglected you left you out of my poems and my personal correspondence as though no one really cared whether email required a hypen or not and yes maybe it was a consequence of whoring after those new madeup words like ebay and ecommerce and ipod and so on words that violated everything that was holy and decent in the english language at my age i should know better than to go along with some quote hip unquote new trendy punctuation system devised by indifferent and ignorant grammatical amateurs in it departments and socalled marketing geniuses

and no i guess it wasnt really funny after all when i made that viagra joke at your moms house about how the little blue pill turned my hyphen into an em dash it was just a joke but i guess not the right venue and the irony is we both know that at my advanced age these days all i can mange is a tilde still i have my memories of my youth and the days when a cover painting such as the one on ben greenmans book what hes poised to do would instantly arouse me into an en dash in a heartbeat i was always a sucker for a gamin in black boots and a teddy

god i hope that effing autocorrect feature of microsoft word doesnt screw up this letter there you see how your absences has even ruined my ability to fauxswear by stringing together pound marks ampersands carats asterisks i admit it im helpless without you

please come back

i miss you so much

ee cummings

Bill SwansonAugust 01, 2010

Dear full stop,
If you would like to start something, drop me a line.
In hope,

Dear semicolon,

Hurry up.


Dear comma,

You comfort me, because I know there’s always more coming. I like thinking of you in a meal, in sex, even in illness, because when I see you I know that all is not over, that all is not lost. The period, on the other hand, is a rude deceiver—it pretends to be a new beginning but I think we know that it’s the end.


Dear Snark,

I’m so sorry that Carroll wasn’t successful in his hunt for you.

Run free,

Dear Question Mark,

How lovely and graceful you are, how magnificent, how sublime, with your enticing curves. Yet many people aren’t satisfied with only one of you. They have this strange need to use you to excess. What’s the reason for this??? Can you tell me why?????

P.S. By the way, I love the song you did with The Mysterians, “96 Tears.”

Dear Exclamation Point,

As with Question Mark, I am extremely puzzled as to why people insist on overusing you when there is really no need to do so!! I hope there’s someone out there who can enlighten me as to why!!!

Dear Quotation Marks,


Dear Comma,

I am a HUGE fan of yours. As with the others, people tend to overuse you, too, often incorrectly, inserting you, inappropriately, into previously, perfectly acceptable, well-written, phrases.

Nonetheless, I have been an admirer every since Neil Sedaka brought you to prominence with the immortal obbligato line, “Down-Doo-Be-Doo-Down-Down, Comma, Comma.” Congratulations on making the big time!

Dear Period,

I have never been a fan of yours. For many years, you would show up like clockwork every single month, making a mess of things, often necessitating a change of plans and a postponement of pleasurable activities until after your departure. Who invited you? Fortunately, for the last few years there’s been no sign of you. It appears you’re out of my life permanently. Hallelujah! Farewell, and good riddance.

Dear Space,


Filling the Void,


Richard IhleAugust 03, 2010

Dear Caret,

What’s up, Doc? That’s a joke because of how Bugs Bunny eats carrots, and “carrot” sounds like “caret.” Research has taught me, in fact, that “caret” does not have anything to do with vegetables, but in fact comes from the Latin word caret, which means “to lack.” So caret is a proofreader’s mark that indicates the absence of a word, phrase, or punctuation mark. Let’s review. You are not a punctuation mark, not exactly. You are a proofreader’s mark that can indicate the absence of punctuation. It’s like saying that a picture of a store outside a construction site is a store. Not quite, caret! I understand why you want to sneak in here. It is august company (and, coincidentally, August). But I think we will have to show you to the door. See ya, sucker! If later you are permitted to return then we will just insert one of you and, next to it, another one of you. That will be two carets, one indicating the omission of the other. What’s up, Docs?

A side note, caret. I was married for seven years. To a woman, not a piece of punctuation. Did I love her? I loved her. At some point during the seventh year, she left. She found a door and showed herself to it. Later that month I received a letter, an honest-to-goodness, honest-to-God letter. In that letter, she said, among other things, that she could not speak to me. “I came to feel discomfort around you,” she wrote. I stared at that short sentence for a long time. Two options came to me. The first was that I could cross out the “dis-” and by doing so restore her comfort. The second was that I could insert the word “never” before “came,” and by doing so eliminate the entire process that led to the problem that led to my despairing stare. Insert “never” before “came”: for that, I needed something special. I needed you.

Hit me on the flip side,

Hey Markie Marks

Love your work!


Dear Virgule,

You are the slant line slicing, cutting, splicing, day/nighting us, ghost-busting foolishness, warning against parking at the edge of some precipice as blithe lovers sometimes do.

This is it, you say, hatcheting the complacent skull in two: “Decide! Decide! On which side of this, of me, are you?”

Sometime slung as hash or solidus, Søren Kierkegaard branded you. He took you even in the split-o of his name. Most of all, he knew how to leverage you, as in Either/Or, slashing the heart where the questions are.

You divide all our conversation into essential antinomies: Love/Hate. Life/Death. Being/Nothingness. Meanwhile you play dump truck and typographical terrorist, teetering my “Yes,” threatening to unleash a final “No.”

You/ me?

I guess I’m still attached,


My dearest hyphen,
My in-laws are an unintelligent bunch. They aren’t worthy of your sophisticated presence. Especially my sister-in-law, who greedily uses you twice. She texted me the other day and asked: “what is the ‘-’ symbol called? a dash?” Sigh. How she graduated from college, I’ll never know. I shook my head in punctuation-snob dismay. I almost didn’t tell her; I wanted to protect you from her misuse and abuse. She doesn’t deserve to have you if she can’t even remember your name. But I did tell her. I thought you should hear it from me first.

Your big-mouthed good-for-nothing friend,

Dear Footnote,
As a lawyer, I’m not allowed to say much without you…yet I can say more than perhaps I should, as long as you’re by my side. You hold me back but also set me free!

To you, I attribute so much.


Dear semicolon,

You know you’re my favorite mark of punctuation. But I sometimes worry there’s something missing between us; I fear you’re holding back. If we spend some more time together, will you reveal your whole self?


Dearest semicolon;

Everlasting heart; have you seen yourself lately? Oie Vay; I just have to pause halfway and say; say me, say, say, say…you make me feel semi sweet, semi devil and ; ahem, semi colon. Where have you coffee beans bin all my life?

Colon, colonest…speaking in terms of points, the point stops here. Let our dialogue begin. The end or to be continued:


Eve DobbinsAugust 06, 2010

Dear Dingbat,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

§ because of you, I don’t need numbers

§ you are not bellicose, like a bullet

§ you are madcap and live up to your name

§ you are unpretentious (see above)

§ you are pretty, even beautiful in certain typefaces

§ you are deep, more complex than a mere infinity symbol

§ you are a “dang bit twisted,” as a cryptic crossword clue

§ you are easy, Option 6 on my computer

Love, love, love, Gert

Gertrude StrongAugust 08, 2010

To my beloved semi-colon,
Other marks have tempted me: the versatile colon, the seductive dash. The colon, two dots that say so much: “Let me tell you about it.” “I’ll explain.” “Here’s an example.” “Have a quotation!” “Have a list!” And the dash: I’m tempted to be like Emily and let my thoughts dance among the dashes, or simply to flirt with the end of the sentence, promising something spectacular—the big finish, the grand finale, the surprise! when the reader opens the syntactical wrapping paper.

But you, semi-colon—stop, start; period, comma; halt, beckon—unite form and function. Your soft catch, the hesitation, both linking and dividing, as one thought leads subtly to the next—not quite the quick skip of a comma, yet not the full STOP of the period: You are lovely among your fellows, offering subtlety, grace, nuance; you force me to confront my train of thought, to consider whether I shall pause for a moment and resume or, simply, finish.

Dear semicolon,

I know you thought it was the end when Kurt Vonnegut emphatically insisted no one should ever use you again, calling you a ‘transvestite hermaphrodite who represents absolutely nothing. It is not true that you signify nothing more than that your supporters have been to college.
Never fear, however; there are those of us who love you; perhaps a bit too much. I know what it is to be uncommon and misunderstood. Let the uneducated and the smug mock us in our “ivory castles,” but we both know how much we each accomplish. We can still love Vonnegut and his ilk; even many of the best of people don’t know how to use me properly, either.

not just semi-supportively,



comma, the
maternity of
clause, and
conveying a
panache to
pause in

thrall, in
you the
wherewithal to
surcease of
lovers, a
hesitation and

hover, and
refrain in
singing, a
mark the
pendant of
clinging to,

arbiter to
instanter and
other, of
framing in
between the
lodgings, a

door, a
proclaiming to
adore, the
companion and,
inside in,
conductor of

love of
song, a
direction, in
you, to
descend and
belong, the

dismounting of apostrophe, to
commence a new, and
never in accommodating the.

(My letter is a sestina that employs the six most common English words.)

Dear Period,

Like me, you don’t like to betray too much emotion. I like that. When Facebook reminds me that a friend is celebrating a birthday, I post “Happy Birthday.” on her page.

I don’t use exclamation marks or funny pictures featuring dogs wearing cute birthday hats. I don’t believe in using them, and I know that the dog hated getting that picture taken too.

I’m not a rude person. Yeah, maybe I’m slightly tudish, but that’s okay: a period is perfectly acceptable to use in congratulatory messages. “Happy Flag Day.” “Glad to hear about your divorce.” “You must be proud of your son.”

Period, I know you feel me, dog.

When I write or talk to people, I like to come to a complete stop.


Dear Dash

When I see a clause that opens up in the middle of a sentence I get nervous—the current climate does not bode well for incumbents—but then you’re back and I feel better.

Okay dash. Gotta run.


Dearest Pregnant Comma,

You are new to this world. So new, in fact, that only I know who you are. You are my child, and I will protect you through the early years until you are ready to make your way to the public, brimming and bright and full of expectations. For this is your destiny: you are to carry a message of hope to the world, specifically,,, to blogs.

I brought you into this virtual world after accidentally typ(o)ing you into a text message, making an ellipses out of commas, a beautiful joining of bodies and minds. I would never let you believe, even for a second, that you were a mistake. That was the day I knew you were destined for greatness and meant to be here.

I think I am not exaggerating by telling you that the recipient was pleased when she saw the brief missive : Just saw your ex-boyfriend on the street,,, he gained a lot of weight!

You are not grappling like ellipses. You are not overconfident like period,,, You are hesitant and eager to please, but neither are you a pushover like comma. You know what you’re doing, and you make sure others are with you every step of the way. If something’s coming, it’s best if everybody knows. So this is why you’re here and this is why I cherish you : you are confident, friendly, humorous, casual, hopeful. You are refined and specific, and you know your place. When the time is right, you will simply move to fill the empty space because you know that is where you belong, and you feel it. Just as I birthed you, you will be my pregnant comma, here to deliver endings, expected and unexpected alike.

Love, now,,, and forever, Nora

Dear < and >
I have never known your true names, only “less than” and “greater than”, which seem more like mob handles than true monikers. Like hungry alligators, you always gape towards the larger quantity, which some may call greed, but others merely pragmatism. Sometimes, but not often, you pair with your level-headed cousin = in an attempt to bring balance to a relationship, but let’s face it - all things being equal is not what you’re about. Thank you for having the honesty to tell it like is.

Dear Em Dash—

You have flooded me with unrest— I’m like Eranna in the Rilke you gave me— launched “like a spear” I lay not knowing where I am. I have never been so terrified and happy— utterly miserable, really. You are all tongue and I am all ear for you— you have reached inside and pierced me. It is almost like death and yet—

It is the yet that unnerves me. You have taught me everything about desire that I never wanted to know— the pain that encloses sweetness and is enclosed. That park bench after midnight where we made love through our winter clothes— that never happened— do you understand me? I am engaged now to someone who has some money— I am trying to be a respectable woman and I need you to stop saying those things the way you say them, throwing yourself fearlessly from every ledge into— what—? Where, anyway, do you mean to end?

You, darling, and your arm outstretched— the always reachingness of you—I will never be content with anyone else. I will never be content.


Frankie DrayusAugust 16, 2010

Dear semicolon,

My friends all say that we spend too much time together; they think you are a bad influence. My college lecturers think I’m addicted to you; they’d like me to see other punctuation. But we know better, don’t we? Without you, my sentences would be simple; my writing would be all-too-choppy. You complete me; that is, you complete my essays. I would be quite lost without you.

With much affection,


Dear Comma:

I have no idea why anyone writes to any other punctuation mark. You are the best. I have loved you from the time I was a child. Much of it is the way you look. Have you see yourself? You are a beauty! You have a proud little head and a curve to your backside. I feel so strongly about everything you are and everything you do that I have not used you once. I am not worthy.


Good evening Mr. Semicolon,

I wanted to say how special you are to me ; I can always call on you to help me put my independent thoughts together. Besides, you are more unique than just an old period. I like the way you look. You have a dot above a comma. You make my words look like a musical composition; Yes, you make me feel like a composer of music. I love you, Mr. Semicolon.

Dear ellipses,

We’ve known each other for a long time, and you deserve the whole truth. No omissions, since I firmly believe that even the minutest absence of knowledge can mar a person’s understanding of a situation. Do you understand what I’m getting at?

The thing is, you complain that people are always using you to twist words around so they can make their points, valid or no. But perhaps you should look at your own participation in the matter. I’m sorry to say this, but you’re kind of being an enabler.

I’m sorry, I’m just being honest. I hope there are no hard feelings. Let me know if you want to grab a drink later. Or an enema. I hear they’re good for the colon.

Your pal,

Dear Semicolon,

I read somewhere that the ancient Greeks used you as a question mark. Is that true? I really wish I knew, because you are already so.damn.cool and that tasty bit of history makes you just that much cooler. Seriously, whenever I see you - I pause. It’s like seeing a cute, old couple holding hands on a terrible, no-good-awful day. What keeps them together?

I like the idea of a punctuation mark as champion of relationships. You join the hands of two independent clauses that somehow just belong each other; it’s beautiful, really. Sure, they could use a period. Sure, they might use a comma. I’m sure on certain days they wish there was a period between them, but dammit, semicolon, you make me go and think harder. You make me want to be closer to someone else – share a secret with a stranger, or something. You even make me think of marriage. Semicolon, you make me downright sappy!

And you certainly verify my geekiness to entire rooms full of students when I introduce you as my favorite punctuation mark. Well, you are my favorite punctuation mark. Who couldn’t love you? Sure, you do that crazy list-within-a-list thing as a side job. But in my book, you turn those select few sentences into splendid little mysteries, you tiny champion-of-relationships, you.

My dear sweet Ellipsis,

You are at once both thoughtful and mysterious; inviting and alluring. I know your words and thoughts, though they remain unspoken. We are as one, kindred spirits, sharing a tacit understanding without the need for full expression. You are a thoughtful pause; a silent interlude. I love you with all my heart and soul.

Yet, in the same moment, my darkest insecurities come rushing forward. Why will you not divulge your hidden secrets? Have I misread you? Are your omissions truly thoughtful and well-meaning, or simply lies to deceive me? I must know your true inner thoughts; you must tell me … You torture me – I HATE YOU!

But, wait … no. I could never truly hate you. I am yours eternally; I have no choice. Tortured as I am, I do love you.

I have said too much … Please disregard my irrational musings and know that I am not afraid to fully express my undying love for you.

Adieu for now, my love … but not good-bye. Never good-bye for you, my dear, sweet Ellipsis …


Dear Equals Sign,

Are we ranging far and wide now? Is there such a thing as mathematical punctuation? Or is that a different kind of symbology? And if in fact this is not punctuation, then why isn’t there a form of punctuation that does what you do? It would be so convenient for shorthanding synonymy. But maybe you stay in the numerical realm and refuse to cross into the verbal because you know that true equality is rare. When you find it, show me a sign.


The extended filing period has ended and the contest is now closed! Entries posted after this one will be enjoyed but not counted. Thanks for your terrific letters, everybody, and we’ll be announcing the finalists this week!

Emily GordonAugust 17, 2010
My dearest Exclamation Point,

You must be surprised to see me address you with such affection, the way I’ve been ignoring you. It hasn’t been easy for me, either. You always said we were meant for each other - and I knew it, too. Without caffeine, I have always woken up cheery and alert. Ever excitable and easily amused, my every utterance seemed to demand your presence. That was the problem.

The truth is, I did want you to punctuate everything I said. I still do. But you must have noticed — the more we were together, the less people paid attention. I was accused of hysteria and screaming unnecessarily. So, I called upon your calmer brethren, Comma and Period.

The results stunned me. Now, people listen when I speak. They read what I write. They see my humor as clever and subtle, rather than forced. They take me seriously.

Please know that you are ever in my heart, if not my text. And even you must have noticed, the times when we are together now are so much more meaningful.

DAMN! I just noticed that the filing period ended!!

I do love you so,

Someone said the manicule is no longer in use. Yet it appears every time I put my computer cursor on anything that is underlined, as well as on various icons, etc.

What would we do without it?

Dear semi-colon,

I want to use you in every sentence I write.

I love that you are able to connect thoughts that otherwise might have to be more fully written in two sentences. You help my oft-times jumbled brain, which also strings thoughts together, make itself better understood helping me seem quite articulate; smarter sounding, for sure.

And while I sometimes mis-use you, please know that I only seek to inspire others with just how great you can truly be.



Dearest Semicolon,

I sympathize with your most painful identify issues. You’re not quite a colon, but not quite a comma. Lo, the pangs of insecurity to be betwixt and between like so! No, for thou are something entirely novel, yet the course of fashion has neglected thee in the course of recent years. Out of favor you are with the public, who cling embarrassingly to their em dashes and ellipsis like the bosoms of their mothers. Deeply troubling it must be.


Disclaimer: No semicolons were used in the making of this letter

Have you announced the winners?

Hi Jim! We’re just about to post the semifinalists, and the winner announcement will follow shortly afterward. It’s entirely my slowness that’s caused the radio silence; sorry about that!

No worries. Just thought I might have missed it somewhere. Great contest.

Where can we find the semi-finalists? I think I might have missed them, and I wanted to read them.

Still waiting… Maybe it’s a really difficult decision. There are some excellent entries.

Dear marks,

You are all my children. How could I prefer a passionately felt letter to just one of you? Still, one must choose. Thus: I have sealed the “21” show envelope and passed it to Pollux, my more level-headed colleague, who will collate the various choices of the Emdashes editorial staff and post them, probably tomorrow.

Then, perhaps over the weekend, or perhaps even sooner, our esteemed and patient contest-instigator Ben Greenman will make his final pick; he is not only precise and prolific but also prompt. Are these qualities we seek to emulate? They are.

All for one and one for all!

Your sister in arms,


Back from a Rip Van Winkle-length sleep, we announce with cheer and thanks to all of you for your kind patience and heartwarming/funny letters: our winner!

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree