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Late But Not Without Love: Our Punctuation Contest Winner!

Filed under: The Catbird Seat: Friends & Guests   Tagged: , , , , , ,

Some time ago, we sponsored a contest—write a letter to a punctuation mark, and get a chance to win a signed copy of Ben Greenman’s book What He’s Poised to Do—whose results diverted and delighted us. They also distracted us, so much so that it’s taken us, collectively, quite a while to pick a winner. The Emdashes staff selected an absurdly long but heartfelt of finalists, and now Ben has picked his winner. Here is the glad announcement, and with it, our collective apology that we can be awfully slow. Punctuation makes us dizzy and loony. Sometimes blogging does, too. Thank you so much to all the clever writers and true punctuation lovers who entered the contest. And now: Ben Greenman! —Emily Gordon

To say that I agonized over this contest would be an understatement. I have spent weeks staring at these semifinalists, trying to decide how to elevate one and let the others fall away. Who should win? Who will win? When we started this competition months ago, we had no idea that so many people would write such passionate, funny, and insightful letters to pieces of punctuation. We should have guessed. The relationship between a reader and his or her punctuation starts early, and it doesn’t operate as a type of infatuation or opportunism, as the relationship between readers and words sometimes does. The love of (or love for) a piece of punctuation grows slowly, over time, until it is undeniable: a reader looks and wonders until there’s no option left but saying what is felt.

In the end, after weighing them all, I selected Letter #2, Nicole Rushin’s letter to the tilde, in part because she couldn’t remember its name (she’s flustered by love) and in part because she has perfectly identified the seam between passion and fashion. Ten years ago, no one cared about the tilde except for Spanish teachers. Ten years from now, it will have passed into oblivion again. But today, in the waning days of the strange http era, it is a kind of little king. The last four sentences of Nicole’s letter are especially poignant, and especially true. Congratulations to our winner and all our entrants.

—Ben Greenman

Nicole Rushin’s winning entry, for which she will receive a signed and personally punctuated copy of Ben’s book:

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 ~


Wow! At long last we are reunited! I waited so long for your response that I halfheartedly engaged with other punctuation marks in the mean time. Nothing I can’t break off, though, with a - or a ;
Please forgive these affairs of the skin. My fingers may have touched, but my heart only seeks the ~
Yours forever,
Nicole ~

I am so proud!!!! Why wouldn’t I be. This is my daughter. We are so proud of her.


Judy WilliamsDecember 14, 2010

Congratulations Nicole! I am so happy for you and ~. Your writing continues to inspire me!!


Woohoo! Great contest for a writer! Congratulations. I wonder what that character is for ~ Very cool that your mom is on-line Nicole! I wrote poetry in college and never once used a tilde.

My Mom is a rogue social media chatter. Now she is commenting on blogs. Too cool.

Hey Hazel - the tilde seems to have no place in modern writing other than for html code. It is used over the letter n in Spanish to denote a nasal sound. Some use it to surround sentences, but it is much likened to a purse matching your shoes. A mere accessory or an absent hand gesture at the end of a line or word~

Oh. Tilde. There you are, with that woman again! How dare you forget your little baminos - hey, Tilde! Where’d you go???

Ohh, hel-lo Question Mark…

(p.s. I knew Nicole when)

Holly B. MeyersDecember 14, 2010

Oh tilde, I often saw you floating above the n’s littered across my Spanish language homework in high school. I doodled on those homework pages in your honor. Congratulations, Nicole!

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