Pursuit of perfect punctuation pleases PR professor

images1.jpgI hope the spirit of Charles Schultz allows me fair use of this little gem, as it’s a whole lot more entertaining than the slide show I’m offering with this post — or that perfectly putrid headline that sits atop it!

I’ve posted my share of rants about the writing quality in the blogosphere. But bloggers aren’t the only ones who wreak himages-1.jpgavoc with our language. Some of my students can butcher a sentence with the best of ’em. But they’re compelled to listen to me. You are not.

The careless writer is everywhere today, and the growth of social media, text messaging and micro-blogging only amplifies the problem. Our instant-message culture tends to ignore the important task of editing and proofreading. And sadly, most people never bother to learn the rules of grammar, usage and punctuation.

Careful writers respect the language and work at their craft. Careful writers believe that the quality of their writing says as much about them as the messages they try to impart.

Today I offer some help to the “punctuationly challenged” in a lesson I call “Perfecting Your Punctuation.”

Please don’t hide your excitement. Just imagine those commas dancing across the screen!

Here’s the show, now posted to SlideShare, revised following Dino’s comment that made me feel so Web 1.0.  If you’ve not toured SlideShare, do yourself a favor.  Lots of resources there.

Update: I was having so much fun with the slide show that I missed this piece on the much abused and under appreciated semicolon. It appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. Thanks to Judy Gombita for the link. I’m no fan of the semicolon. Two short sentences are almost always better than one.


11 Responses to Pursuit of perfect punctuation pleases PR professor

  1. Dino Baskovic says:

    Bill, meet SlideShare.

    SlideShare, this is BIll.

    You two play nice, now.

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    I thought about SlideShare, Dino. But therein lies the problem with social media: You can always take it one more step.

    What next? Do I tweet the rules one by one to Twitterati? Sorry, but I’d have to reactivate my account. Do I recite them to Utterz? Sorry, but I’m not speaking into something that’s named after a cow’s teat. Maybe I could sing my punctuation rules to a group of online disciples. Is there a site that lets me do musical micro-blogs, maybe in 4-part harmony? I like to sing.

    So I’ve decided to limit my slides to the good old blogosphere, where at least one in 20 writers actually knows the difference between a hyphen and a dash. OK, one in 30.

    Looking forward to seeing you on the 7th, my man. It’s been too long! Let’s see if we can’t get the folks at this conference to take their social media a little less seriously! They might actually have some fun with it!

  3. Dino Baskovic says:

    Agreed. There are more cutesy Web 2.0 sites than my time is worth. Now, I do think SlideShare has some practical value, but that’s my humble opinion. Most of the others can take a long walk off a short pier.

    As for your post, and the prezzer itself, well done. Now, if I could only get my clients to follow these same rules.

    And yes, it’ll be rather fun to talk turkey in person for a change. See you on the 7th!

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    I know this is off topic, but hell, it’s my blog. I signed on to SlideShare soon after it went online — another one of the cool things I learned about from Shel Holtz. I’ve watched it grow into quite a resource and one I should be tapping into and contributing to.

    That said, I never came to believe in slides until I was able to put them online or email them to folks to be used as a study tool. As a presentation tool, I find slides — at least static ones like I posted here — to be pretty deadly. Plus, slides take the focus off the presenter, which some people will consider a blessing in my case. Sigh.

  5. Bill Sledzik says:

    Let me add…

    Dino and I have been friends for a good while and we enjoy a smart-ass repartee, both online and at the bar. This is the guy who turned me on to social media and told me to start blogging two years before I did. So I listen to this man.

    It had been a long while since I looked seriously at SlideShare, so I took time to do that after Dino posted his comment. Then I took the 3 minutes required to upload the slides and pop in my mug shot and bio information to update my profile.

  6. Dino Baskovic says:

    Yes, folks, you can blame it all on me. Oh, and Bill, your SlideShare prezzer looks great. Nice work. If you ever want to go so far as to embed them right into your posts, the WordPress FAQ offers a simple tutorial for doing so.

    You can even do it in FaceBook. But that’s another topic altogether, and I’ve already hijacked your post as it is.

    So, allow me to “unhijack” it. I keep a copy of the the “Bible” and “Strunk & White” on my desk as do many of us. Have you had a chance to snap up a copy of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing? It’s not entirely about proper punctuation, though as I think back to your infamous “Doom” post it fits well with the discussion.

  7. Bill Sledzik says:

    The post needed someone to hijack it. Hell, who wants to talk about commas and colons? Sheesh.

    I’ll work on that other stuff, but here I am posting after midnight and talking about new ways to soup-up the blog. Life before Web 2.0 had far fewer options, but maybe that wasn’t so bad.

  8. Kami Huyse says:

    Wow, that disclaimer is a doozie.

    Also, I prefer not to discuss my colon on a blog – but that is just me.

  9. Judy Gombita says:

    Semicolon hijack:

    From The Canadian Press Stylebook–

    1. Use a semicolon to separate statements too closely related to stand as separate sentences.

    “I never read a book before reviewing it; it prejudices a man so.” –Sidney Smith.

    3. Use a semicolon to precede explanatory phrases introduced by: for example, namely, that is…and the like when a comma seems too weak.

    Some people claim to dislike semicolons, but the truth is generally they don’t know how to use them properly; for example, Bill.


    (I adore semicolons; use them whenever I can sneak them in.)

  10. Bill Sledzik says:

    Kami: When you teach as long as I have, your lessons, exercises and assignments tend to morph. At some point, you forget where it all came from. It’s not my intent to steal anyone’s work, but we do a lot of borrowing in this endeavor of higher ed. Those examples, I’m betting, came from 6-8 different books. I credit the most prominent among them.

    Judy: I buy rule number one, since you have two independent clauses. But I don’t agree they are “too closely related” to stand alone. I very much the the staccato created by placing a period in there. Rule number 2 is a new one one me. It’s not in any of my grammar books (all written for journalists), nor is it part of the AP Stylebook.

    But I’ve always believed the Canadians to be colourful writers, even though you spell funny.

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