Maybe I’m a freak, but I sort of have a thing about punctuation marks. Some of them I like (the dash, the semicolon); some of them I hate (like the colon -- ugh -- and the exclamation point). But out of all of them, the most troubling is the triple dot ellipsis. Couple it with the slight tinge of loneliness and you get this past week’s development -- a crush on an old friend. It wasn’t a real crush: He lives half a country away, and it could never work out, but you know how it is. I responded to a mass emailing and he responded back to me, ending his message with “drop me a line sometime ...” And sad as I am, that was all I needed. Swoon. Without the ellipsis, I would have said, hmm, I thought that’s what I just did. I dropped you a line and let you know what was going on with my life. But I see ellipses and think, “Something is left out here. What’s he not saying? What couldn’t be said?” Then I start imagining marathon phone conversations and long distance love thangs. It’s funny: We weren’t close, I wouldn’t really be able to tell you what he looks like, and I vaguely recall a mutual dislike (or, I gathered a dislike from him, so I sent one crashing back). But there I was, pining nevertheless. This illustrates my first and possibly only point. With the abundance of telecommunication in our digital age, punctuation has become more important than ever. Sadly, it's as misused as a turn signal on Union Avenue (seriously, people, all you have to do is tap them on before you make your turn. It’s not hard. They go off by themselves), but that doesn’t lessen its importance. As much as e-mail and instant messaging are convenient, cheap, and just plain cool, their existence has signified a return to the written word. And since you don’t hear your email or instant messages (at least I don’t, who knows what kind of technical wizardry some of you have out there), the only way to convey tone or emotion is with those pesky little dots and slashes. I won’t give you a grammar lesson (not that I could even if I wanted to), but my simple plea is that people will be mindful of their commas, dashes, slashes, and, of course ellipses. You don’t want someone trying to figure out what you meant by an exclamation point or what you’ve left unsaid. Especially if they have as active an imagination as mine. ( Mary Cashiola writes about life every Friday @ memphisflyer.com. You’re invited to come along.)


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