9. Curly bracket
In all honesty, this is only here so we can curse its existence. The handlebar mustache of punctuation (and not just because it looks like one). Shout out to all the programmers using it to write code, but how do you live with yourselves?
8. Exclamation point
Once the scotch bonnet of sentence-enders — punch and spice just when you needed it — societal overuse has turned it into a rote display of empty enthusiasm. For real! There’s no more off-putting way to make a first impression! Or end an email! And using more than one at a time somehow makes it exponentially worse!!!
The heroes of the area code pull double duty as wormholes through the spacetime continuum (physics metaphor!), enabling you to fit a thought inside of a thought. Deploying it just right gives you a portal to subtle meta-asides and tonal digression; unfortunately, deploying it just right (which very few do) usually takes a backseat to indiscriminate parentheseizures. (Exhibit A: this paragraph.)
A tireless workhorse — though too few, or too many, is unreasonably hard on the brain. Not for the first time, Nayvadius has handed out some bad advice: Don’t fuck up commas, kids.
A necessity everywhere. Well, everywhere except text messages. Stop using periods in text messages, you sociopath.
If it’s versatility you need, look no further than the only mark that shares its name with a literary device. Possessives? Bang. Contractions? Check. Single quotes? Bring it on. Incorrectly pluralizing words? Weird and hilarious!
The 50-cent word of punctuation, no question. (Not the 50 Cent word of punctuation — that’s definitely an interrobang.) Writers love them, editors tolerate them; readers yawn after the second one and close the book.
2. Em dash
Where semicolons separate independent but related clauses, em dashes create more of a pause in a single thought — and have become almost cartoonishly popular in recent years. When did we all start writing like 18th-century pamphleteers and Emily Dickinson?
1. Right bracket
We’re not suggesting you go throwing this around without its counterpart, but you’ve gotta love something that’s the typography embodiment of “I don’t start things, I finish them.” Closers close, baby!