unctuation Marks
Digital Marketing Strategy

Emoticons: A New Lease on Life for Punctuation Marks?

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There’s a holiday for everything. Punctuation marks had theirs on September 24, which has been designated National Punctuation Day for the past 10 years. This is an American “holiday” but punctuation marks know no national boundaries so let’s talk about them!

It’s generally agreed that there are 14 punctuation marks in the English language. They’re in the image to the right.

The Fall of Punctuation Marks

The advent of instant messaging brought the decline of the use of punctuation marks in their traditional sense. Do you remember the last time you sent an instant message and you actually typed an apostrophe? Auto-correct changes our cants and wonts to can’ts and won’ts with no effort on our part. We don’t even have to remember where the apostrophe should go. Full stops (also known as periods) are also practically non-existent in this new grammar. In fact, ellipses are probably the only punctuation mark still in common use as intended…

The Rise of the Emoticon

But wait! Punctuation marks continue to have a place of importance in modern written communication. Their role has evolved from being only sentence enhancers and instructors for when we’re reading aloud. Nowadays, the most frequent use of punctuation marks in our everyday communications is emoticons. Think of the smiley face :-) and the sad face :-( which are both a series of 3 punctuation marks.

In addition, while emoticons are not, by definition, punctuation marks, some punctuation marks have been replaced by emoticons. For example, exclamation points have been replaced by surprised face emoticons (“I can’t believe she did that :-O”) and question marks have been side-lined in favour of the confused face (“What did she say :-S”).

So although the often unappreciated and unnoticed punctuation marks are used less frequently than they should be by those of us who write in English, they are certainly heavily used by emoticons in our everyday communications.

MSN Emoticons

Emoticons from MSN

In celebration of the evolution of punctuation marks, here are the most common emoticons and the punctuation marks to which they owe their existence.

In your next post, will you be using punctuation marks, emoticons or both? We’d like to hear from you ;-)

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