Read dis b-lo 2 lern sumthin

Published 12:02 am Sunday, September 26, 2010

OMG, my bff sed fri s nat punc day, but IDK wut tht mnz?

Twenty years ago the garble written above likely would be attributed to a toddler who crawled on the family’s typewriter. In today’s world, what appears above is one coherent sentence anyone born in 1990 or later likely could read as an encyclopedia entry.

Such is life in a world of 140 characters or fewer where punctuation is optional.

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But there is hope yet. Friday marked National Punctuation Day, the sixth such event created by Jeff Rubin, The Newsletter Guy.

“I founded National Punctuation Day in 2004 to draw attention to the importance of proper punctuation,” Rubin wrote in his newsletter, The Write Stuff.

Friday was a day for librarians and teachers to celebrate, to bring attention to the wonderful English language. It should show those who comprehend the first sentence of this writing that even though communication has been reduced to three-letter phrases, punctuation is critical for a learned society.

For years, plural possessives were Kryptonite for me. Many times, I simply would guess where to put the apostrophe, if at all. There was a mental blockage that insisted on screwing up plural possessives. It drove former food editor Laurin Stamm insane.

Stamm, a stickler for proper punctuation (and certainly not shy of telling one he or she screwed up), would rise from her chair, walk to the cabinets that divided our desks and try to teach me plural possessives. At some point, it finally clicked. I don’t know what finally made it click, but I do know that “I don’t know” should not be written IDK.

The nonsense written in the first sentence — its translation is, “Oh my God, my best friend forever said Friday is National Punctuation Day, but I don’t know what that means” — passes for modern-day English usage. It is a shame, indeed.

We should pay more attention to the likes of Rubin and Laurin Stamm. Maybe everyone doesn’t have to learn the intricacies of the ellipses, but “omg” does not a scholar make.

If you know how to correctly use a semi-colon, aren’t scared of a comma and have mastered plural possessives, lift a glass in celebration.

Then share your knowledge with the youngsters who live in a 140-character world.

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at