I recently bought the new edition of the Elements of Style not only because the clever artwork on the cover caught my eye, but also because I love the writing in it. I anticipate May like Christmas every year because it’s the release of the updated AP Stylebook.
My reading stack at home includes books like Edit Yourself; Naked, Drunk and Writing; Woe is I; Bird by Bird; Writing Down the Bones; and Eat Shoots and Leaves. I’m really proud of the fact my 11th grade grammar book still has a place on my bookshelf. So it isn’t surprising that I sometimes find myself seeing life as a series of punctuation marks. Take a look at a few examples:
Parentheses – Sets words off from the rest of the sentence with the intention of giving additional detail or meaning. The sentence might make grammatical sense without the words in parentheses, but those words help the reader understand something better.
A parentheses inserted into life is a time set off to gain meaning or insight. This time helps clarify a situation. You can be in a parentheses period when you take time out to make a big decision. This time may not always be necessary, but it’s helpful to get the full meaning of the situation.
Comma – Separates items in a sentence. Forces the reader to take a quick break.
A comma experience helps you take a breath without necessarily stopping. It says “slow down” as you’re barreling through a series of things. Whether it’s your daily to-do list or major life decisions, a life comma makes you tap the brakes and coast a bit.
Colon – Introduces lists or series of items. It says “pay attention.”
A life colon says stop. There are important ideas ahead that you need to look out for. A life colon may appear when you’re seeking information to solve a problem, and there a multiple options to consider.
Hyphen – Connects two or more words that may not otherwise be related.
A hyphen experience is when you play the role of making connections between people who may seem to have nothing in common. I get real pleasure from a life hyphen when I can help two people find they share a mutual interest or experience.
Exclamation mark – Expresses a high degree of emotion.
A life exclamation mark is the surprise, the delight, the joy that comes from an emotional encounter. They occur infrequently so as not to dull the meaning of the situation. I experienced an exclamation mark when I saw the sun rise at the beach last week.
So if you hear me say, “I’m taking a parentheses to figure something out” or “Give me a comma to slow down a second,” please humor me. I’m just channeling my inner word nerd.