Smile!

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Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, extolls the virtues of the full colon : and the semi-colon ; and goes to great lengths to try to convey the most appropriate use of these punctuation marks; but never quite manages to make it clear which should be used when.

She witters on in an entertaining way: but never quite gets around to making her point. It’s the same with the dash - and the bracket (or parenthesis as the Americans prefer to call it).

So confusion still reigns, and abusage will still abound.

Naturally the earnest guardian of punctuation rails at the rise of the emoticon ;-)

That these ancient symbols have gained a new life, appreciated now by countless millions; used in their billions if not trillions everyday, by people who would previously have ignored them or been ignorant of them, is something that Ms Truss firmly disapproves. Usage of such typographical delights should be as static as the metal in which they used to be crafted: and damn to hell anyone who should dare cojoin them.

For Ms Truss, it is necessary to type, write, create, craft at least a sentence to convey a meaning, in a meaningful way.

There is another aspect of the emoticon that Truss misses. And that’s the impact on the recipient.

I received a smiley yesterday afternoon which... well made me smile for the rest of the day... and well into the night. It was totally unexpected: a rare gift from the Dancer, if that doesn't sound too dramatic. The impact was, of course, totally out of all proportion to the size of the message, two ancient punctuation marks squished together in a rough approximation of someone conveying happiness.

I read into it that she’s happy, her world is happy, she’s happy with me and wants me to be happy. It shows that there was thought, I was in her mind, and that despite everything, she cares.

Now it would seem to me, Ms Truss, that to convey all of that content with just two punctuation marks, 16 bits, 2 bytes of data, is a masterly use of brevity, accuracy, succinctness.

Pretty remarkable and in my view, an excellent use of punctuation.