The following article, translated into French, was originally published in the April 2013 issue of Hiatus, la revue. Francis Ramel, Hiatus’ editor-in-chief, contacted me some time back to ask if I might be interested in writing an article about the “minimum” of punctuation, to match one of the themes of the April issue. The word count was suitably minimal — only 3,000 characters, or around 500 words — so I did my best to compress some of the subjects familiar to Shady Characters readers into a short article on the subject. Francis arranged for the article to be translated into French for the magazine, but it seemed a shame to leave the English version unpublished. I hope you enjoy reading this little diversion from Shady Characters’ day-to-day business as much as I did writing it!
recently published a primer on the many and varied uses of the em (—) and en dashes (–), including a mention of my personal favourite, the “compound adjective hyphen”. This is the case where a compound term such as “Pulitzer Prize” is joined to another term not with a hyphen but instead an assertive en dash to yield, for instance, “Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist”. And if your interest is piqued by Mental Floss’s brief treatment of the usage of the dash, then hopefully the chapter on its history in the upcoming Shady Characters book will be worth waiting for!
The interrobang is in the ascendant this week. Richard Polt, a professor of philosophy at Xavier University, Ohio, is also a vintage typewriter buff who has helped me a number of times with regard to keyboards, typewriter models and such like. Back in 2011, Richard contributed this great image of a piano-like, 1889 Hammond to my article on The @-symbol, part 2 of 2; now, though, he has outdone himself handsomely with an amazing find. Witness the interrobang in print on the cover of Agent, Action, and Reason (1971) edited by Robert William Binkley et al.1