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When Punctuation is a Crime

I don’t know which offends more: the graffiti or the poor writing mechanics.

punctuation crimes

It’s painted over now, but for weeks, this graffiti along I-90 practically begged the question:

What’s with the quotation marks?

We can safely assume that the “author” didn’t consult the Associate Press Stylebook, which lists the following reasons to use quotation marks:

• direct quotations
• dialogue or conversation
• composition titles
• irony or sarcasm
• unfamiliar terms

None applies here. But I suppose that, as long as you’re vandalizing public property, you might as well vandalize the basic mechanics of writing as well.

Why do I bring this up? Do I think vandals give a spray can’s nozzle about punctuation?


The problem is that they aren’t the only ones committing the crime. Businesses do it too, especially with advertising slogans and taglines, like this one:

“Design that’s great since ‘88!”

This is a hypothetical example. Obviously. We don’t have a company tagline, and if we did, this wouldn’t be it. (Although, technically, it is true.)

It’s the type of tagline you’ll see plastered everywhere, from billboards to company vehicles. And it makes the business look amateurish. We’re all savvy enough to recognize that the short phrase following a company’s name is its tagline – sans quotation marks. Which makes them every bit as tired and useless as another punctuation offense.

The excessive use of exclamation points!!!

But that’s a post for another day.



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