Maximal meaning in minimal space: the history of punctuation

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Miscellany № 21

Mental Floss

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!

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Miscellany № 18

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

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