I had a meeting with a client last week, where we discussed the tone of voice required for her two different businesses. We decided her B2B* audience required semi-colons, while her B2C** audience didn’t. It was interesting to be able to sum up the entire brief with just one punctuation mark.
We bemoaned the decline of the semi-colon in general, and went on to talk about other punctuation marks. As you do.
She pointed out that making “double quote” signs in the air is a quick way to annoy people.
I mentioned how the hash symbol has escaped from Twitter. Children in playgrounds say out loud: “Hashtag just kidding”. Presenters on TV make the symbol using the first two fingers on each hand e.g. Davina McCall. (Have you seen her do this?)
It’s a long time since the day I overheard someone on the phone saying: “What the ****’s the hash symbol?” (In his case, I suspect he had the other type of hash on his mind.)
Which brings us onto the asterisk. Not just used to denote a footer comment, as used in this blog post. Not just used in place of swear words, also demonstrated in this blog post. Not to be confused with Asterix The Gaul. The asterisk is now used across social media to correct mis-spellings (see example left).
The slash symbol has also escaped, probably from HTML. When watching Strictly, you’ll see Claudia Winkleman slash the air with her forearm as she gives out the web address.
I heard the inventor of the URL (web address format) regrets setting them up as http://www.domainname.com. He said the :// didn’t mean anything. And, as you may know, you no longer have to type the www. Despite that, I know a web design company that prefixes each heading with two slashes, to make them look more web-friendly.
There is hardly a password that doesn’t ask you to include symbols as well as letters and numbers.
Years ago, I was invited to draw a self-portrait. I drew a tall figure with curly hair surrounded by letters – the tools of my trade. These days, I would probably have to include symbols too.
Can you think of any novel uses of punctuation marks I’ve missed?