Dreamt I was the new word bubble grammar fairy. I was responsible for . , : and ;

This was a recent tweet from my friend Diana, who has a super cool webcomic called Sweet & Sour Grapes. Her tweet made me laugh so much that I warned her I’d end up quoting it some time, and now I have. I can’t quite imagine word bubbles with colons or semicolons in them, but I like the funny image of a fairy who dispenses those marks!


Sometimes I feel like the grammar fairy in charge of ; : — ( ) , etc. Only not for speech bubbles. For student writing.

My own experience learning all the punctuation marks was horribly inefficient. I was still picking up random things in college. I can remember exactly which professor went off on a quick tangent to show us about hyphens, and which professor pointed out to me in grad school that my ellipses needed to be spaced apart. If somebody had fed it to me all at once, efficiently and effectively, I would have eaten it up! I didn’t want to look stupid with my ellipses scrunched.

So when I got hired as a graduate instructor, I was totally dismayed when they told us we were pretty much not allowed to teach grammar. They showed us this quote about how it took away too much time from other instruction, and they gave us handbooks that we were supposed to have the students read and take quizzes on.

Can you guess how effective that was?

Anyhow, ever since then I’ve made it my personal mission to find an effective way to give students a repertoire of ; : — ( ) , ” ” ‘ . . . [ ] -, etc, all in one semester. I’ve had successes and set-backs, but I’ve learned a lot about what makes certain teaching methods effective.

I’ve just added a whole section on my teaching page full of pdf files and other useful links about grammar pedagogy, and tomorrow I’m going to show it to college instructors from Idaho, Utah, and Arizona–well, at least any who stop by my session at the TYCA-West conference. Hopefully someone will find the information useful.

I’d love comments about successes others have had–whether as a teacher or a learner–with mastering these conventions.

And if you could be a punctuation fairy, which mark would you dispense most often? For me, it would have to be an em dash. Gosh, I love those things. And a colon would come in a tight second.

4 thoughts on “Punctuation Repertoires

  1. Thanks for the shout out, friend! I just hope my crazy dreams don’t give anyone the impression that I know what I’m doing with punctuation and grammar. I do my best but I’m not very meticulous.

    For a while I enjoyed listening to the Grammar Girl podcast. Then I got a little behind and when I tried listening to a bunch of episodes at once it was overwhelming. I have to take my time learning these things! http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/

    I hope your conference goes well. ^_^


  2. Thanks for your response to my Man Booker post – I’m thinking from what you’ve said that I might not like “the Enchantress of Florence.” I will, of course, give it a try anyway, since i have it and all.
    I sort of feel the same way that you do, though, about loving YA but also sometimes just wanting something a bit more literary.

    As for reading graphic novel adaptations of books – I actually haven’t, despite being a huge comic book and graphic novel fan. I guess it’s something I should look into. 🙂
    And I love love LOVE that cover of Pride and Prejudice!


    1. Thanks for stopping by! I should admit that my taste for something more literary often ends in disappointment as well, because so many “adult” novels have been unsatisfying for me. I usually try to find compromises of literary young adult novels.


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