Tag Archives: punctuation


The ambush predator lies in wait.

It disguises itself, or hides itself, under bushes or in crevices in rocks, blending in with its surroundings. It lurks.

The ambush predator is not built to take its quarry head-on; it’s not built for that. The ambush predator is not a creature of great strength. If it sees that you see it coming, you are as safe as can be.

But when it can take you unawares …

You will be dead before you even realize you’ve been attacked.

This is how my son tells me stories.

If you haven’t been told a story by somebody younger than 10 lately, let me enlighten you. They know what punctuation is, but they’re not much impressed. It’s like having one of those walls-of-text you see on the internet read to you by an AI voice that doesn’t need to breathe or pause or think. Pure aural overload.

HEY dad i was playing this game and i found this guy and he was a bad guy but you know what i was STRONGER than him so i used my guy’s laser power but it didn’t work so THEN do you know what i did I went and got my sister oh but she as mad at me and she hit me in the leg and I think she should be in trouble for that don’t you because she hits me all the time and it’s not fair but she came with me and we went after the guy and now he’s dead wanna see?

And all I wanted was to make it to the kitchen and back for a glass of water to head back to bed for another thirty minutes.

I mean, the sun’s not even up yet, and I’m being brutalized by this affront to grammar, by this run-on sentence from the sixth circle of hell.

And the thing is, like an ambush predator, he has to spring it on me. He has to wait around the side of a door and pounce on me as I walk through, or sit on the couch in the living room in the dark and wait for me to walk past, or even creep up at the side of the bed while I’m *still sleeping* to launch into one of these impromptu sermons.

He barely stops to breathe.

And it’s sort of cute — sort of — that he’s so enthusiastic about everything. That there’s wonder and amazement in almost everything that happens to him, that a little thing like seeing a bug on a windowsill can get him so worked up that he almost goes red in the face just trying to get it all out and tell me every emotion he had about it.

I wish I had that energy.

Double Space, I Hardly Knew Ye

I’m always afraid I’m going to be found out.

I’m that guy in the movies who’s walking backward against the current and the only thing saving me from annihilation is that somehow the other berks in the matrix haven’t scented me out yet. I’m covered in zombie entrails walking amongst the walking dead, counting on the smell of dead things to keep me incognito. I’m the wolf covered in tufts of cotton, only invisible because the sheep haven’t bothered to look my way.

I’m making it up as I go in every facet of my life. As a husband? Yeah, I’m five years into that and have no idea what I’m doing. As a father? Don’t make me laugh. What parent really knows what he is doing? It’s my baseline goal to make sure the kid doesn’t grow up to be a mass-murderer, anything beyond that is gravy. As a teacher? Let’s just say I fear for the future. Even now, as I write this blarg post, I’m inescapably aware that in no way am I qualified to be writing the things I’m writing about, whether in my novel or here on this lonely corner of the web. I don’t know what I’m doing.

The only reason, as Tommy Lee Jones said in Men in Black, that I’m able to go on with my life is that most of the time, I do not know about it. There are probably better ways to write, but I am merrily unaware. Doubtless there are better parenting methods, but mine is working well enough for me so far. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. And I sure as sharknado thought I was doing a decent job as an English teacher.

The problem with living happily in ignorance is that sooner or later, somebody will point out the ways in which you never knew you were wrong, as evidenced by any nimrod who’s anti-vaccinations will be glad to tell you. Even now, this very instant, I am struggling with a bit of information I’ve just learned which is shaking up my very existence, fighting against the habits and automatic thinking which have been a part of me for over twenty years.

Seriously, how did I make it this far in my life not knowing that you only press space once after a period?

I’ve been typing with the double-spaced period for ages. AGES. I learned in my keyboarding class in middle school that a period gets two spaces behind it, and I’ve been typing that way ever since. Then today, it’s pointed out to me that two spaces after a period is nigh-archaic. I ask my wife who writes for a living, and in typical I-can’t-believe-I’m-married-to-this-idiot fashion, she says, “obviously. How did you not know that?” Somehow in twenty years I’ve missed the memo on this and nobody ever bothered to tell me.

Recently I heard a story about a guy who went into Home Depot to buy a new toilet and asked if, since he lived alone, he could just get a toilet without the seat. He lived by himself, no women in the house, so no need to put the seat down. Innocently, a worker asked him how he would be able to go #2, and the guy said, “what do you mean?” After a bit of embarrassing questioning, it came out that the guy had never sat on a toilet seat in his life, he always just squatted over the bowl. Certainly it never hurt anybody. He just never learned the right way and continued on, living his life in the complete wrong way until by mistake somebody set him straight.

So it is with me and the period. The humble period, of all things. Only the most common punctuation mark in the written language. Only the simple symbol of the end of a sentence, the building block of the paragraph, and therefore of all language itself. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had to hit backspace, in this paragraph alone, to go back and erase one of the extra spaces I’m inserting as automatically as breathing.

The double space is a habit it’s going to take me months to unlearn. I wish I had a time machine so that I could go back, find my sixth-grade typing teacher, and punch her in the neck.

What’s next? Will I find out I’ve been spelling my own name wrong? Mispronouncing the simplest of words? Wearing my shoes on the wrong feet?

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