I have to admit that I am one of those people who are picky about punctuation – punctilious even.
There is nothing more pleasing to me than reading or writing a beautifully constructed sentence, two ideas balanced like scales of intellect, either side of a lovely colon. (No, not the intestine – look ‘:’ !)
A comma placed at the right point in a sentence can give you pause for thought, to absorb the idea or even change the whole meaning of sentence. Then of course, in lists or descriptions, a comma can link these separate ideas like a whole string of wordy sausages.
Naturally next there is the full stop. This serves various purposes, finishing the thought before moving onto the next idea or just chucked in for emphasis. I’m particularly fond of the ‘dot dot dot’ which, thanks to my son, I recently found out is called an ellipsis. My English teacher at school despised this form of punctuation, as it is most commonly used in trashy romantic novels while the heroine breathlessly swoons. I like it because it mirrors the vacant silences to which I am sometimes prone…
I admire the apostrophe. To have put up with continued misuse and misplacement requires a strength and determination that appeals to me. Any other punctuation mark would have given up, died and dropped off the page long ago. The exclamation mark is jubilant, practically jumping off the page to poke you in the eye with its eagerness: “Listen! No, really!”
The question mark can be timid, like a child in class, wanting to be excused, or imperious and beckoning like a sergeant major: “Just where do you think you’re going?”
I have nothing to say about speech marks, but I do like the drama of a hyphen – that’s it.