Stories of Punctuation and Typographic Marks: A Reading List


From the now-ubiquitous hashtag (or octothorpe, hash, pound, or whatever you like to call it) to the loved, hated, and misunderstood semicolon, punctuation marks not only help us shape our stories, but also have their own origins and histories and have become part of the narratives of our lives. Here are picks about six punctuation marks, from the comma to the asterisk.

1. “Holy Writ” (Mary Norris, The New Yorker)

“The popular image of the copy editor is of someone who favors rigid consistency. I don’t usually think of myself that way. But, when pressed, I do find I have strong views about commas.” Norris describes her early days at The New Yorker, from collating to working on the copydesk — reading greats like John McPhee and Pauline Kael — and her current job, more than thirty years later, as a comma queen.

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