Some punctuation we can do without

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We occasionally need to bring our organizational discussion down a notch in intensity, and talk about some rather mundane principles of communication.

Today? Punctuation.

First, the comma.

Although we are strong advocates of the serial comma (largely because it’s far simpler to have a single rule than case-by-case application of two different rules) we feel that the comma is one of the most abused and over-used examples of punctuation in official correspondence.

For this reason, we suggest the DD MONTH YYYY standard for dates.That would make today 21 October 2014 rather than October 21st, 2014.

The month, of course, can be abbreviated as needed.

And, we purposefully italicized a sentence containing a comma-framed aside to illustrate a point. Commas serve an important function in the construction of sentences. They help separate units of meaning and clarify their roles and relationships. Not only does the DD MONTH YYYY standard put all time units in order from smallest to largest, it eliminates a needless comma that might undermine the readability of one’s prose.

Likewise, we advise against the practice of inserting commas as substitutes for “of” in titles, for example “Director, National Hypothetical Agency” rather than “Director of the National Hypothetical Agency.” Comma substitution costs more in the natural flow of language than it gains in space and, when listing a series of organization heads, it can become utterly confusing.

In the middlethe dash!

Okay, so not technically the em dash we just highlighted. Let’s talk phone numbers and hyphens.

In the age of the mobile phone, the area code has become a silly affectation. Setting the area code apart in parentheses should be shelved in the museums of telephony alongside those quaint telephone exchange names memorialized in the classic song “PEnnsylvania 6-5000.”

New Gov Office suggests simply separating the segments of phone numbers (including the area code) with dashes, but spaces or periods will do.

Finally, the period.

For the friendly period, we have some bad news.

The use of periods in U.S. and other abbreviations is a stale habit that should be nixed. U.S. should become US, C.I.A. should become CIA, and so on.

But, don’t worry, period! You will always be very helpful in bring a solid finish to a declarative sentence. Period.

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