Gramifications


2-Otto-CorrectThe editorial crimes of Otto Correct, underboss of the Internet, are well documented by DamnYouAutoCorrect.

That’s not where we’re going.

Sure, I’ve had my share of beatdowns from Otto. Just the other day he nearly had me email a client to ask, “How did your meeting with the devil go?” Fortunately, at the last second I remembered to pat down Otto, proofing his pockets for insults, obscenities and inanities. Ha! The meeting was with Devin, Otto. D-e-v-i-n. I was right. You were wrong. Live with it.

My particular point is that while Otto’s edits can be embarrassing, he’s almost more dangerous for the way he derails our trains of thought and hijacks conversations.

Google chatting with an architect friend, I typed “What do you know about Eichler?” Otto butted in and replaced the name of Eichler, a developer of mid-century modern homes, with Euchre.

My friend instantly typed back: “Euchre? Isn’t that a card game?”

Faster than I could type nonononono, my friend jumped out of the chat window and Googled off, returning seconds later to report that Euchre is indeed a card game. Eager to be helpful, he also gave me the Wikipedia link and, oh yes, inquired why I was suddenly so interested in Euchre.

By then I was distracted by the semi-interesting coincidence that both Euchre and the card game Pinochle are spelled with a c-h that sounds like a k and was thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve heard of anyone playing Pinochle.

We never got back to Eichler.

Many of Otto’s suggestions seem to be pure whimsy. I was typing micro line—as in, very small fontwhen Otto butted in to suggest micro linen. Exactly what would micro linen be? Itsy napkins for doll houses? Yet there I was, pondering.

Is it not enough that links are compromising our ability to concentrate while reading online, tempting us to drill down like crazed wildcatters, convincing us a real gusher of insights is only one click away?

Certainly Otto has his uses. If he were to become, let’s say, disabled, who would correct me when I misspell? Yesterday he caught me typing “she has more moxy” and generously corrected with moxie. See, Otto, now THAT is helpful. But you could have made the fix without nudging me toward your “improvements” of more money or more poxy.

“She has more poxy?” Seriously, Otto?  

Really, how much extra would it cost to add a comma between "leash" and "curb"?

Inspired by this sign, I’m giving commas as gifts for National Punctuation Day, September 24.

Sure, I could wait to post. But with my erratic blogging it might be Halloween before I get around to it. Strike while the irony is hot, I say.

I had considered splurging this year, ordering umlauts in überbulk from Germany, but every day on my walk I see this sign and contemplate the senseless accidents caused by unleashed curbs.

Punctuation Day. What to give, what to give.

Colons? Undeniable ick factor.

Em dashes? Handy, yes, but it’s work sorting them from en dashes — I do this 2 p.m.–3 p.m. daily — and must-have hyphens. Also, nobody needs — or thanks you for — eyeball whiplash from too many abrupt stops — and starts — while reading.

Ampersands? Too easy to get carried away: “I have a big collection of ampersands & I’m going to use them for this & that & don’t try & stop me.”

Quotation marks? A set of single quotes can be a welcome gift because as someone noted — okay, it was I — “they fit ‘snugly’ within double quotes.” But you read a sentence like that and mentally see fingers forming “air quotes” and you want to scream, “Don’t do that! Ever, ever, ever!”

Which brings us to exclamation points! We’ve all been warned to use them sparingly, but e-mail and texting often beg for exclamation points to convey tone, especially among the emoticon disinclined. “Good job” seems cold and perfunctory, whereas “Good job!” warms the heart of the texted.

Question marks? Who doesn’t have enough?

So commas it is. (Unless I see an online special on parentheses.)

Here’s to an uncommonly fine National Punctuation Day. Does it call for period costumes?

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