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A Flurry of Punctuation to Celebrate Grammar Day


Just can’t make it work

What would you think if you received a text like this?

Okay, it’s a fictional text, sent by a fictional character. But this text – and the chain of events it unleashed over the course of a 22-minute TV episode – sums up my feelings about texting and grammar. Or the lack thereof. Today, on National Grammar Day, I feel compelled to share those feelings with you.

Fans of Younger, the television comedy drama starring Sutton Foster, may remember the episode to which I refer. After Liza Miller (played by Foster) has revealed her big secret to her boyfriend Josh (Nico Tortorella) – that she is really a 40-year-old New Jersey mom masquerading as a 26-year-old publishing assistant – young Josh is understandably upset. But he decides to give her another chance. At the start of season two, they turn the page. Or so Liza thinks.

She is sitting and waiting for Josh in a bar. For hours. Finally, she gets the above referenced message from Josh, joining the ranks of women dumped via text by their boyfriends.

Or has she? As we learn later in the episode, the message Josh MEANT to convey was:


Just can’t make it. Work.

To which Liza responds with a line that sets my nerdy heart ablaze: Have you ever heard of punctuation?

Punctuation should not be rendered obsolete just because your thumbs don't feel like toggling screens. And yet, somehow an entire generation with thumbs far more dexterous than mine do not bother with punctuation while texting. This has been a pet peeve of mine since I bought my children iPhones.

“Are you mad at me?” my daughter has asked – on more than one occasion – in response to some of my texts. I assure her that I am not, to which she replies: “Then why did you use a period?”

“Because it was the end of a sentence,” I said. “That’s where periods go.”

Punctuation is our friend! Essential to any form of written communication. Are we all to become barbarians?

She was not buying it. So, in the interest of family harmony, I make an effort to limit my punctuation when communicating with my children by text. But sometimes I just can’t help getting on that grammatical high horse.

Like, for example, when my son texted me in response to a question I had asked him: “I don’t know when they have to tell me”

Given the context, I was fairly certain he meant: “I don’t know when. They have to tell me.” But it could very easily have meant that he did not know when they were obliged to tell him. Two very different meanings, I pointed out to him.

Hmmm, if only there was a way to resolve this confusion. Oh, wait. There is. Punctuation! It takes all the guesswork out of reading.

I don’t know how you plan on celebrating National Grammar Day, but I plan to send out a flurry of well punctuated texts to my nearest and dearest.

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