Punctuation is FUNdamental

Most major national news outlets covered the leaked angry e-mail from Alaska’s former First Dude Todd Palin to Joe Miller, Alaska Republican Senate candidate, and Tim Crawford, treasurer of SarahPAC, regarding Sarah Palin’s presidential aspirations, qualifications and possible support of Miller. But The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank got my attention, in a recent column in which he poked His-and-Hers fun at Ms. Palin’s made up word and Mr. Palin’s gross misuse of punctuation: “Will somebody please refudiate our fear that there is a serious punctuation problem in the Palin household?”

Here’s the e-mail and here’s your challenge. How many punctuation errors can you count?

Joe and Tim,

Hold off on any letter for Joe. Sarah put her ass on the line for Joe and yet he can’t answer a simple question ” is Sarah Palin Qualified to be President”. I DON’T KNOW IF SHE IS.

Joe, please explain how this endorsement stuff works, is it to be completely one sided.

Sarah spent all morning working on a Facebook post for Joe, she won’t use it, not now.

Put yourself in her shoe’s Joe for one day.


In the 80-word body of the e-mail, I count eight.

Occasionally, when I notice errors, friends and colleagues advise me to go easy on people, especially if they were not fortunate enough to go to college.

First, I am quick to volley back with the fact that some of the most articulate and punctuation-savvy people I know did not go to college. Second, I’d be the first to acquiesce to this advice if I were pointing out errors pertaining to material taught in college.

But didn’t we all learn basic grammar and punctuation long before college? Spelling certainly isn’t a university level course. Didn’t we have to master these fundamentals in order to get into college?

So, out of Todd’s eight errors, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt on half, because it was an e-mail he thought no one but its addressees would see and also because I know as well as anyone that some errors might simply be typos.

I’ll ask the English teachers (and English students) who read this blog if they agree. Would you grade Todd on the curve? How many points off for apostrophe abuse, semicolon deficit and misplaced quotation marks? (Notice, Todd, dear, I ended my question with a question mark.)


Filed under All Things Wordish, News, Politics

5 responses to “Punctuation is FUNdamental

  1. Sheree Moyer

    Same old story I have been ranting about for years. No child left behind = no child learns English. However, Todd baby was born early enough that he should have been educated in the correct use of our language. I keep harping at my children the importance of good grammar and spelling. How can you even get a job if you cannot write a resume? Answer questions on an application? Obviously, this is a losing battle if the possible leaders (cough, gasp) of our country have no regard for the importance of these issues.

  2. Jo

    Oooh, that’s a heinous example. Placement of punctuation with quotation marks is a personal pet peeve. And if we could all just embrace the semicolon, what a bright world this would be!

  3. The punctuation problems just pale beside the idiotic content and even more idiotic reason to send it. We all have 23 pairs of genes, but clearly we see …

  4. Chromosomes! Not genes! Sorry! Too long without biology (and the “other” sort of biology!).

  5. Polly

    As a high school teacher, I am more forgiving of errors as long as it doesn’t impede the actual communication (the reason for writing anything). As you stated, the skills should be mastered long before entering secondary school. So on this, he would receive a D. It would pass barely because the reader has to do quite a bit of internal editing just to completely comprehend his message. And yet, it is there — sad as it is.

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