National Punctuation Day on September 24 celebrates the punctuation that makes our words readable and conveys our meaning, from the humble comma to the flashy ampersand. It is evident that punctuation saves lives: “Let’s eat, Grandma!” or “Let’s eat, Grandma!” Even if you haven’t consciously considered punctuation since secondary school, you probably use it daily. Every year, the creator of the holiday issues a punctuation challenge, and quizzes and activities involving punctuation can be found across the nation.
The background of National Punctuation Day
It was not always necessary to communicate while minding your p’s and q’s, dotting your t’s, crossing your i’s, and knowing the difference between a colon and a semicolon. Ancient cultures had to do without the dots, slashes, and spaces that transform a string of incomprehensible letters into a compelling story. Since the majority of early languages were verbal only, punctuation was unnecessary.
The Mesha Stele, which dates back to 900 B.C. and contains punctuation, is the earliest known document with punctuation. In 200 B.C., the Greeks were the next civilization to begin developing basic punctuation. People quickly adopted Aristophanes of Byzantium’s system of punctuation, though they had previously written in scriptura continua, or unbroken sequences of text without punctuation. This contained a single punctuation mark positioned differently to denote speech breaks.
Even though punctuation had already been adopted by the Greeks, it did not expand to other civilizations until the Bible was mass-printed. Between 400 and 800 A.D., Bible printing became widespread, and punctuation was required so that those who read the text orally knew where to pause and place emphasis. In the 1400s, the advent of the printing press prompted the need for a more standardized punctuation system.
While punctuation as a whole has changed little since ancient times, marks and symbols have progressively gained and lost significance.
Late in the 20th century, the life-altering introduction of computers marked a significant transition. Suddenly, identifiers such as ‘#’ and ‘@’ took on entirely new, technology-specific connotations! Moreover, texting and online chatting necessitate knowledge of an entirely different, somewhat informal set of punctuation rules.
5 Interesting Facts About Punctuation
Today, we end literary questions with a simple question mark (? ), but those who used Latin would have written out the word “questio” to signify the end of a question!
You may have said ‘pound’ or ‘hashtag’ (depending on your cohort), but its official name is ‘octothorpe’!
Text in the early days of writing consisted of lengthy strings of characters without spaces or punctuation.
Following the letter ‘z’ in the alphabet, the ampersand was originally written as ‘z and per se and’; through years of sloppy pronunciation, ‘and per se and’ evolved into the modern ampersand.
While we may refer to this as a ‘at mark’ or simply a ‘at,’ its name varies widely across the globe; in Israel, it is known as a’strudel’ and in Russia as a ‘little dog’!
NATIONAL PUNCTUATION DAY DATES