Monthly Archives: January 2012

Why Are We Losing the War on Punctuation?


I was heartened to read Simon Kelner’s article in i this evening. My soul dies a little bit with every paper I mark and today I marked 25 essays with commas in the place of full stops. Reading that there are people out there fighting tooth and nail against the misuse of the apostrophe had a resuscitating effect.

What I want to know is, what are we doing wrong? At the end of every marking session I have a strong urge to throw my students’ work at their primary school teachers and demand to know why they didn’t teach them the rudiments of grammar. But that would be unfair. Why is literacy dropping like a crop in a plague?

Out of all the students I teach, only one – and an 11 year old, at that – uses commas in complex sentences and apostrophes to denote possession, not plurality. Tomorrow, when I hand them back their essays, I will give this student a prize.