A view of the value of certain characters

Published 15 Mar 2017

Written communication occupies a great part of people’s professional and personal lives. With the spread of the Internet, its importance has only increased. At the same time, writing often becomes more casual and neglects the rules that were previously cast in stone. This is also true of punctuation that is often regarded as a superfluous element of written documents. In my opinion, however, the correct use of punctuation is as important as grammar, good wording, and style.

To see why one needs punctuation, it makes sense to ask: What is the purpose of writing? In most cases, it is to convey some thoughts and information to the reader, accomplishing a certain purpose. Professor E. Wertheim of Northeastern University notes that “as the technical content of our exchanges rise, so does the need for precision”. This precision is created by a sound combination of grammar, style, and lexicon, but it can also be promoted with the help of punctuation.

Thus, the symbols ( and ) help single out a part of the text that is not directly embedded in the sentence, but is closely related to it. The ‘ and ‘ symbols help the author point out information that is different from the rest of words by attaching a special meaning to it. Finally, the quotation and exclamation marks help writers convey their emotions. Without these signs, the reader would be lost, and a lot of information that is succinctly and conveniently placed in this format would be missing.

The value of the characters described above also lies in the economy of space they allow. But for the exclamation mark, the author would be forced to use additional comments to make the idea stronger or emphasize it. As it happens, however, this sign permits expression of emotion in a short, universally acceptable format. The same refers to brackets: without them, joining ideas to each other would require more effort as people would be forced to take time to explain why this and that word belong together. Punctuation saves time and effort. In a sense, it is a language within a language, comprehensible to all educated users of written language and conveying additional meanings.

For these reasons, the use of punctuation is going to persist in modern English. It is unlikely that writers of fiction will give up such an excellent way of making their statements more appealing to the general audience and adding new overtones to their sentences. Punctuation and the meaning of specific symbols can undergo a change; however, this change will not detract from the value of symbols. One can expect that they will remain in use as a powerful way to make a strong statement even stronger.


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