Today is a special holiday! Happy National Punctuation Day. Punctuation can be both the great love and the occasional bane of a writer's existence, and it's not strange that a love affair may crop up with regard to one of those marks—or, contrarily, perhaps a great hatred may grow. I love them all, I do, but if I had to choose one, it would probably be the semi-colon. Or the ellipses. Or the em-dash. Perhaps the so-stylish ampersand. Others have other favorites, including the "new breed" of punctuation marks: the ever-more-creative emoticon and even the emoji. In honor of the day, we've gathered some thoughts on punctuation favorites from a few of our favorite writers and word-minded folks around the web.
— The Em-Dash
R.L. Stine, author of the upcoming adult horror novel Red Rain, renowned kid terrifier: "When a moment of true horror arises in a novel, there's no better punctuation than a —," Stine explains. Examples: "She stopped and gasped—and opened her mouth in a scream of horror." "He stumbled, fell—and toppled into the open grave."
Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com, and language columnist for the Boston Globe: "When I revealed in a New York Times article last year that I'm overly attached to em-dashes, I was taken to task by the redoubtable John McIntyre, copy editor for the Baltimore Sun. 'When you are tempted to use dashes,' he wrote, 'stop for a moment to consider whether you really want dashes there rather than commas or parentheses.' Properly chastened, I've tried to tone down my dashiness. But I still admire the artfully wielded em-dash, especially used near the end of a sentence—when it works, it really works. (Some might have preferred a semicolon in the previous sentence; I can appreciate the affection for the humble semicolon, less flashy than the em-dash.)"