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Thursday, November 29, 2012

13 Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using

Adrienne Crezo

COURTESY OF Adrienne Crezo is a writer living in Oklahoma. 


Because sometimes periods, commas, colons, semi-colons, dashes, hyphens, apostrophes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks, brackets, parentheses, braces, and ellipses won’t do.

1. Interrobang

You probably already know the interrobang, thanks to its excellent moniker and increasing popularity. Though the combination exclamation point and question mark can be replaced by using one of each (You did what!? or You don’t read mental_floss?!), it’s fun to see the single glyph getting a little more love lately.

2. Percontation Point or Rhetorical Question Mark

The backward question mark was proposed by Henry Denham in 1580 as an end to a rhetorical question, and was used until the early 1600s.

3. Irony Mark

It looks a lot like the percontation point, but the irony mark’s location is a bit different, as it is smaller, elevated, and precedes a statement to indicate its intent before it is read. Alcanter de Brahm introduced the idea in the 19th century, and in 1966 French author Hervé Bazin proposed a similar glyph in his book, Plumons l’Oiseau, along with 5 other innovative marks.

4. Love Point

Among Bazin’s proposed new punctuation was the love point, made of two question marks, one mirrored, that share a point. The intended use, of course, was to denote a statement of affection or love, as in “Happy anniversary [love point]” or “I have warm fuzzies [love point]” If it were easier to type, I think this one might really take off.

5. Acclamation Point

Bazin described this mark as “the stylistic representation of those two little flags that float above the tour bus when a president comes to town.” Acclamation is a “demonstration of goodwill or welcome,” so you could use it to say “I’m so happy to see you [acclamationpoint]” or “Viva Las Vegas [acclamationpoint]”

6. Certitude Point

Need to say something with unwavering conviction? End your declaration with the certitude point, another of Bazin’s designs.

7. Doubt Point

This is the opposite of the certitude point, and thus is used to end a sentence with a note of skepticism.

8. Authority Point

Bazin’s authority point “shades your sentence” with a note of expertise, “like a parasol over a sultan.” (Well, I was there and that’s what happened.) Likewise, it’s also used to indicate an order or advice that should be taken seriously, as it comes from a voice of authority.

9. SarcMark

The SarcMark (short for “sarcasm mark”) was invented, copyrighted and trademarked by Paul Sak, and while it hasn’t seen widespread use, Sak markets it as “The official, easy-to-use punctuation mark to emphasize a sarcastic phrase, sentence or message.” Because half the fun of sarcasm is pointing it out [SarcMark].

10. Snark Mark

This, like the copyrighted SarcMark, is used to indicate that a sentence should be understood beyond the literal meaning. Unlike the SarcMark, this one is copyright free and easy to type: it’s just a period followed by a tilde.

11. Asterism

This cool-looking but little-used piece of punctuation used to be the divider between subchapters in books or to indicate minor breaks in a long text. It’s almost obsolete, since books typically now use three asterisks in a row to break within chapters (***) or simply skip an extra line. It seems a shame to waste such a great little mark, though. Maybe we should bring this one back.

12 & 13. Exclamation Comma & Question Comma

Now you can be excited or inquisitive without having to end a sentence! A Canadian patent was filed for these in 1992, but it lapsed in 1995, so use them freely, but not too often.
Big thanks to Scarlett and LeAnn for helping translate Bazin’s notes!

--brought to you by mental_floss!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Modern authors must be modern marketers

Published in Washington Post


Modern authors must be modern marketers

Two years ago, Sarah Pekkanen spent the entire U.S. advance for her first novel on marketing. With her fourth novel set for release this spring, the Chevy Chase author still does a lot of her own publicity. Getting the word out costs less now, but it’s a lot more intense. Her experience is a telling indication of how much marketing work authors today are taking on.
In advance of her upcoming novel, “The Best of Us” (Washington Square), Pekkanen is participating in giveawayson several reader blogs; she expects to record a promotional video; she’s publicizing the book on Facebook,Twitterand her own Web site; and she held a raffle offering the novel as a prize. (The hitch: Contestants had to order her new 99-cent e-novella, “Beginning Again,” which was published this week.)
Though Pekkanen has nothing but praise for her publisher’s publicity efforts, she knows that these days there’s only so much a publisher can do. “I’m a former newspaper reporter,” she says, “and I tend to research things pretty exhaustively.” Before her first novel appeared, she explains, “I quickly learned the statistics that the vast majority of novels fail to earn back their advances.”
In 2011, about 350,000 titles were published, according to Bowker. But as brick-and-mortar bookstores shut andsales drift toward the Web, authors and publishers alike are scrambling to figure out how to grab attention in cyberspace. “What might have worked 10 years ago, or even last year, may not work anymore,” Russell Perreault, director of publicity for Vintage and Anchor, said in an e-mail.
Savvy writers like Pekkanen understand the importance of developing early online buzz — and they know that much of that buzz must be self-generated and fostered by other writers.
When her first novel, “The Opposite of Me,” came out, Pekkanen benefited from sharing an editor with chick-lit phenomenon Jennifer Weiner, who helped plug Pekkanen’s novel on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. It was a revelation, Pekkanen wrote in PW. “Authors didn’t have to wrestle over scraps of media attention; we could boost each other instead.” According to Pekkanen, her book’s Amazon ranking rose in one day from about 200,000 to 62 and the book went into a second printing before its publication date. “The Opposite of Me” has since sold 26,000 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan.

Big-name writers such as Jodi PicoultAlexander McCall Smith,J.K. Rowling and Joyce Carol Oates are now regulars on Twitter. (There are some holdouts: Nora Roberts told me she “would rather be stabbed with a burning stick in the eye than deal with Twitter.”) Authors “are connecting with their readers in ways that writers could rarely do before besides the few minutes at a book signing,” Perreault says.
Still, will the revelation that Anne Lamott “just ate the third piece of key lime pie” or that Ayelet Waldman “is battling some low moods” and sometimes craves cookies make people more likely to buy their books?
As Pekkanen acknowledges, there’s a fine line between ­self-revelation and self-promotion. “If I were promoting all the time, I wouldn’t have any friends on Facebook,” she said. She says she tweets about 20 times a week but not always about her books. With three young children, she splits her work time about equally between writing and marketing, which she enjoys because “readers are kind and give lots of feedback.”
Her personal marketing budget has shrunk since her first novel. With word being spread by bloggers and other book authors for free, why spend more? Pekkanen’s publisher is offering advance copies of “The Best of Us” at online sites where bloggers and other reviewers can order the book long before its on-sale date. One reader-review onGood­ has already concluded that the book “is the perfect poolside read!” Nothing like planning ahead.