What Kind of Day?
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
— Annie Dillard
English teachers bemoan the demise of spelling and grammar correctness, what with texting, spell check and a society that seems to care more about having the perfect mascara than writing right.
Schooled in the art of writing by nuns who took no prisoners, I share the lament of English teachers. Give me writing rule over a perfectly sculpted eye any day. I love structure and rules as much as a dog begs for dinner and a walk on schedule each night. I am proud to stick to rules like a third ear lobe. We’re together no matter what.
Punctuation is my favorite rule of English 101. It not only helps the reader understand what is meant by those words that squiggle across a page, it also tells the reader and writer what to do.
Punctuation demands obedience. The nuns taught me well, so, yay for compliance, I say!
A comma gives the reader a moment to catch his or her breath. Period means stop right now.
I like being told what to do. Otherwise, we have anarchy, Lord of the Flies and sexting.
While some people swear by prayer first thing in the morning, and others like to meditate, I conjure punctuation for my daily marching orders. I can tell what kind of day it’s going to be by the type of punctuation that swaggers across my eyelids in the early dawn.
If I see commas, then, of course, I pause before I rise from my bed. I take my pauses very seriously. A comma is the pause that refreshes, pause before you leap and keep your paws off my breakfast. Which is where I’m headed after I’ve refreshed and leapt from bed.
Then there are days when I am confronted by a period. I know those will be difficult days because it means I need to come to a stop. Not a rolling stop like the bad habit I’ve developed, where, at the end of my street, the local cop is camped out just waiting for me to roll by. No, a dead stop. Like a break in the action and not coming up for more any time soon. It’s the kind of punctuation that makes me wish I hadn’t woken up yet, and I could go back to sleep and wake to better news. But, no, that would be cheating.
My favorite punctuation is the exclamation point. It’s the one that lets me know that I’m alive. It tells me I’d better jump out of this bed while I’ve still got my wits about me. This punctuation mark wears me out, though, and there are days that I need an extra pot of coffee, Adderall or a cattle prod to keep up. I don’t want to lose the feeling that this punctuation gives me, so I try and get a good night’s sleep in anticipation that the next day will be an exclamation point kind of day. Funny how those days usually fall on Wednesdays, hump day, like a mid-week peak to keep me trudging through the next few days.
I dread semi-colon days. These are days that are wishy-washy. I don’t really stop, and I don’t really go. I sort of meander, not sure what to do or what comes next. They are days without purpose. I wish for the day to end, because I just feel so useless.
Question mark days mean there is always the option of something I hadn’t yet considered. My eyebrows are in a constant state of elevation while I ponder and pursue possibilities just for the taking. Sort of like exclamation point days, question marks portend anything goes. Why not follow right along?
Colon days are exhausting. You really can’t have a colon without a long list of somethings behind it. A colon’s very presence means something else needs to follow. Some days I’m not up for a procession or parade, so then what? Seriously, I hate those days; they are endless and I’m not ashamed to say I want them to finish sooner rather than later.
A love the calm of a comma day, the finality of a period day, the possibilities of a question mark day, and the excitement of an exclamation point day. Colon days I can do without, but the other days make up for it. Semi-colons give me a chance to decide exactly what I’m about that day.
Yes, punctuation tells me what to do, and sometimes it resonates beautifully with what I’m feeling.
I love rules, if only because they can be broken! I wonder how the nuns and English teachers feel about that?
It emphasizes the importance in knowing that how I live my life is entirely up to me.
Hello, I’m Janet, career coach, writer, workshop leader.
I help women create their best lives through personal writing.