Dear Queer Diary: {!:,)?&;.;

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

Back in my college days, I used to evaluate potential romantic partners on the basis of their texting abilities. The perfect flirtext (not to be confused with the far more scandalous sext) involved 1. a pun, 2. the kind of language most frequently found in a Jane Austen novel and 3. perfect punctuation.

These, my dear queer diarists, were the days of T9, when inserting a comma or a period might add precious seconds to one’s text response time. By taking (or failing to take) these seconds, I thought, my suitors proved whether or not they were worthy of my attentions.

While I am sure that this methodology was a less than foolproof way of finding my one true love, I am happy to report both that my current girlfriend understands my feelings about punctuation— and that I have lightened up a little bit in my texting requirements.

The owner of this tattoo is invited to send me a flirtext anytime she chooses. (Via Yodaka)

The owner of this tattoo is invited to send me a flirtext anytime she chooses. (Via Yodaka)

As much as my inner English teacher normally turns up her nose at the sight of a run-on sentence or improperly used semicolon, I consider my journal to be a judgment-free zone, a place where my schoolmarm alter ego loosens her tatted collar and sits back to enjoy a few glasses of sherry. The strict binary of proper/improper grammar can keep its prescriptive norms out of my queer diary.

Forget about phrases, clauses and comma splices, my fearless journalers! Instead, please enjoy a tribute to my four favorite journal-friendly punctuation marks:

1. The Dash

I spy at least two dashes in the opening of this letter to Katherine Mansfield from Virginia Woolf. (Via Smith College)

I spy at least two dashes in the opening of this letter to Katherine Mansfield from Virginia Woolf. (Via Smith College)

The dash is all about spontaneity—just look at it! It speeds across the page like a cheetah, dashing (get it?) from one thought to the next. The dash is perfect for journaling because, nine times out of ten, my thoughts don’t come out in the form of neat, grammatical sentences. Instead, they hop here and there like frogs in a wheelbarrow, one jumping over another to get out first.

Perhaps more importantly, dashes are endorsed by the queer lady writers of the past: Virginia Woolf was a frequent dash user, but in this respect, even she cannot even begin to measure up to Emily Dickinson, who was the reigning duchess of the dash — when she wasn’t potentially sending sexy poems to the lady who lived next door.

2. The Ampersand

The ampersand in all its decorative glory. (Via Lauren Elise Crafted)

The ampersand in all its decorative glory. (Via Lauren Elise Crafted)

If I were forced to decorate every surface of my home with a single punctuation mark, I would choose the ampersand without hesitation. It is elegant, efficient and even historic. The first ampersand was discovered on a wall in Pompeii.

Knitted punctuation marks for the woman who has everything. (Via One Sheepish Girl)

Knitted punctuation marks for the woman who has everything. (Via One Sheepish Girl)

3. Parentheses

I think it is fair to say that there is not a single page in my diary without at least one set of parentheses — and most pages have more than one set. Much like the dash, parentheses accommodate the non-linear thoughts that are so prevalent on the pages of my diary, allowing additions, clarifications and questions to jump aboard my speeding train of thought.

However, while the dash leaps from one thought to the next, the soft curves of a parenthesis are somewhat gentler, cradling a word or phrase lovingly between their twinned lines. I wouldn’t mind snuggling with a parenthesis.

And the award for creative use of punctuation goes to… (Via Leah Batchelor)

And the award for creative use of punctuation goes to… (Via Leah Batchelor)

4. The Semicolon

My current boss refuses to allow me to use semicolons on the job, crossing them out and replacing them with periods at every opportunity — a sad fact that only deepens my resolve to celebrate the possibilities of the semicolon in the pages of my journal. No other punctuation mark can join independent clauses with such grace and brevity! No other punctuation mark can make me feel as pretentious and overeducated!

Kurt Vonnegut is famous for his oft-quoted (and probably sarcastic) dismissal of the semicolon as “transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing,” a description that makes me want to barf all over my Pilot G2 pens. You know what, Kurt? I really like Slaughterhouse-Five, but last I checked, “gay” was not a synonym for “stupid” and “gender queer” was not a synonym for “meaningless.”

Also, as this eloquent defense indicates, semicolons rock.

Why is it that every visit to Etsy ends in the struggle to convince myself that I do not need 1000 pieces of typewriter themed jewelry? (Via lettershop)

Why is it that every visit to Etsy ends in the struggle to convince myself that I do not need 1000 pieces of typewriter themed jewelry? (Via lettershop)

What say you, my dear queer diarists? Are the pages of your journals packed with punctuation? Do you cherish the semicolon? Or do you prefer to let your words tumble across the page with wild abandon like tumbleweeds in the Wild West? If you had to snuggle with a punctuation mark, which would you choose?


Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

Feature image via Luigi Benozzi

Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.

26 Comments

    • I completely agree and commiserate – my academic notes have dashes which then have to be turned into semicolons for the actual paper which then have to be ruthlessly edited out because whoops I just used four semicolons in two paragraphs.

  1. I find myself editing semicolons out of my informal emails because they seem too stuffy, but I struggle with what to replace them with. A comma splice is obviously unacceptable, making two sentences makes it too choppy… So then I just rewrite the damn thing. Why yes, I do proofread and edit all my email. Why no, I’m not type-A. Why do you ask?

  2. I can’t control my love for parentheses. They are just so perfect. Even when I’m trying to write something formal I find myself struggling not to include my lovely (snarky) remarks in wonderful parentheses. I even get to use them while accounting to note negative amounts ! They are the perfection of punctuation.

    • Welcome to the world of commenting, Sachi!

      I love ellipses so much that I am actually feeling a little bit of remorse for not including them in my list…

      (If you observe the punctuation I used in this comment, our tastes are obviously similar.)

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