Mark Your Calendars

The Copy Editor Tip of the Week clued me in to a most important date: National Punctuation Day on September 24 (yesterday). Mark your calendar for next year!

In the meantime, Terry Pratchett has a new book coming out. I'm requesting it from the library.

National Punctuation Day

I can't believe I would have missed it.

One of Copy Editor's biggest boosters sent me a note to ask whether I knew that Monday, September 24, was National Punctuation Day. You can find out more at

How will you celebrate? I have visions of armies of editors marching with white paint, removing scare quotes and greengrocer's apostrophes from signs everywhere. So, I thought I'd make sure you're all clear about how to spot these offenders so that when you get arrested for defacing private property, at least you won't have been wrong. (How embarrassing would it be to face a judge who, stylebook in hand, sternly explained that you'd painted out a legitimate piece of punctuation?)

Scare quotes are quotation marks used for emphasis when they should not be. Quotation marks around a sentence mean "Somebody else said this." Quotation marks around a phrase show that it's explaining the meaning of something (as in the previous sentence). And quotation marks around a term show that it's unusual in some way—it's new, it's what someone else said, it's a bit suspect—so that a writer can distance himself or herself from the term.

So, a sign that says "FARM FRESH" EGGS is not emphasizing how fresh the eggs are. It's saying that somebody else said they're fresh, but the sign maker is reserving judgment. Want a field guide to scare quotes? Check out the following blog (another link sent in by a reader):

The greengrocer's apostrophe is an apostrophe used to make a plural. These abound in produce stands (the original term is British, hence "greengrocer"), as in "TOMATOE'S $2.50 LB." In one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels (I wish I could remember which one), there was a character who was a greengrocer. In all his dialogue, the plurals had apostrophes. I went from really liking to absolutely adoring Pratchett when I saw that.

If you do get arrested this week, remind your friendly "Police" Officer's that September is Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month. Really. Our booster told me that one, too.

Tip of the Week is a free weekly supplement provided to subscribers of Copy Editor newsletter. We welcome your questions and comments. Please submit them to editor Wendalyn Nichols at

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