Punctuation is important, sure, but it’s not a deal-breaker. For the most part, your readers probably don’t care whether you’re comma-crazed, like me, or writing marathon run-on sentences. Few people are studying closely to determine whether you should be using parentheses rather than dashes. Still, there are a few instances where something as small and boring as a punctuation mark can make or break your post.
The most exciting mark is, of course, the exclamation point. This gets overused a lot, especially in email. That’s because the exclamation point is the big dumb dog of the punctuation world; a sentence ending in an exclamation is a sentence that jumps and slobber all over you. It’s not clean or subtle, but at least the tone is unmistakable. You like me! You really like me! When you’re really crafting your sentences you’ll be able to convey your tone without the exclamation point, but we all have days where we’re just throwing a post together in a sloppy kind of way without worrying too much about how it looks. On those days, the exclamation point is a life saver. It conveys instant enthusiasm and sincerity without having to work for it.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the semi-colon and colon. These are the dry professors of the punctuation world, but they, too, have their uses. For example: A post that’s all short sentences is boring. Your readers’ eyes will start to tire. Too many simple sentences give a staccato feel. Yet too many run-ons can be exhausting too. On the other hand, adding a semi-colon can introduce some variety to a paragraph; it allows you to string two sentences together, breaking up the line of simple sentences you had before.
Do you have further thoughts on these or other punctuation marks? Probably not, unless, like me, you are a giant grammar geek. But I encourage all you lurking geeks to throw down in the comments.