If punctuation marks were people

Wednesday, March 27, 2019
by Trenton Joseph McNulty

Punctuation marks. We use them to form our sentences, to turn our incoherent thoughts into organized prose. But what if these signs and symbols had minds of their own?

Imagine, if you will, a world in which Homo sapiens never walked the earth. Never roamed the plains of Africa, never developed speech. A world in which nature—in some strange act of prescient, convergent evolution—took a left turn, replacing our own family tree with the future tree of modern linguistics. If the intangible took on reality in such a way, we might not look so human; indeed, after 100,000 years, we might instead take the form of walking, talking, sentient punctuation.

This only begs more questions. Would ampersands practice calligraphy? Would exclamation marks line the streets as evangelists and newspaper boys, heralding the end-times? Would commas and periods take their slows and stops to the highway as crossing guards and toll booth operators?

Not too long ago, these questions would have remained rhetorical; a thought experiment, nothing more.

No longer.

The Writing and Communication Centre has (through various covert means) received signals from beyond the boundary seperating their dimension from ours. We have decoded radio, satellite, and (for your viewing pleasure) television transmissions—all from the world of Homo interpunctum.

As it turns out, their lives are depressingly similar to our own. 


cartoon ellipses standing at a podium while being questioned by angry reporters

Question Mark: THERAPIST

Cartoon semicolon confessing innermost feelings to question-mark therapist


TV infomercial spoof with cartoon dash and apostrophe selling punctuation marks

Quotation Marks: LAWYER

cartoon quotation-mark saying