First thing first. I am a stickler for punctuation. I hate it when people interchange theirs and there’s or its and it’s. I hate it when someone doesn’t put a full stop at the end of a sentence. I hate it when people go on rambling about something without putting a comma or a semicolon or a full stop anywhere in between. I can’t imagine someone being so careless.
I am a proofreader by profession. (That explains a lot, doesn’t it?) I get paid for pointing out people’s mistakes, defacing their drafts. I enjoy it; mainly because it makes you feel superior to the person whose draft you are reading, however great an author they may be. How could you miss that comma, you moron?!
Whenever I see a badly written copy with misplaced punctuation or very few punctuation, I cringe. I feel like picking up a pencil and putting up those ugly proofreading marks all over the page, even if it’s a web page! It takes efforts to resist that temptation.
But I fear this temptation may land me in trouble someday. I have developed a proofreader’s eye. It’s like, while reading, my eyes only look for mistakes. And after spotting them, I naturally feel like pointing them out. But everybody does not like to be corrected, especially if they have not paid you for that.
Facebook is a real nightmare. It’s an ultimate test of your patience. Every alternate status update or post has one or the other punctuation mistake. What do you do in such a case? There have been a few instances when I have shown the audacity to point out people’s mistakes at the cost of sounding rude or ruining their status updates.
Aesthetics is not the only reason I wear my sticklerness on my sleeve. A good copy, with proper grammar and punctuation, is obviously a good copy. It is readable and lucid, doesn’t have confusing sentences, and doesn’t make a reader stop mid-way and reread something unnecessarily. (Unless, well, if the write-up is about astrophysics. In that case, punctuation marks will not help you much, sorry.)
I am not a snob. I do not mean to deride people who genuinely lack the knowledge about proper usage of punctuation. My problem is with the people who know but are careless, or the people who have never taken the efforts to learn. Today we are using written words more than ever in our history. Texting and other forms of written communication constitute a large part of our total communication pie. Hence, it is important that we are careful about how we write. It will help in avoiding confusions and misunderstanding, and also in driving our point home.