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Thursday, May 13 12:00 AM EDT

New Punctuation Mark Approved for Use

By Brian Briggs

London, England - The International Grammar Standards Organization has approved the quartercolon for use starting in June of 2004. This is the first new punctuation mark added to the English language since IGSO approved the exclamation mark in 1914.

"Language is dynamic. It changes daily," said IGSO President Colin Thomas, "We felt a new punctuation mark was long overdue to help with the changing language."

Editors and English teacher worldwide are scrambling to update style guides and lesson plans to incorporate the new mark. Most felt that IGSO would reject the quartercolon.

Keyboard manufacturers, however, anticipated the move and have already begun shipping keyboards with the quartercolon instead of the back tick, which no one uses anyway.

Windows users can download new fonts from Microsoft's website, or get a copy of the quartercolon graphic from the IGSO website for use until Microsft releases Service Pack 2 for Windows XP.

IGSO also released guidelines for proper use of a quartercolon. Here are a few of the new rules:

  • Between items in a list when the words are in alphabetical order, or one item is more than eight letters long. Like in the sentence: He ate apples bananas and pears.

  • When a sentence already contains a semicolon, but another independent clause is needed.
  • When quoting someone with a Cockney accent.

There are twelve other uses, but most would only be used in rare occassions, like in final exams and job interviews.

Smilie enthusiast welcome the new punctuation mark as a way to add variety to their art. "With the quartercolon it looks like two-eyes blinking, so if you combine that with an 0 you get a surprised look -0. The possibilities are endless now," said MSN user, Jennifer Morgan.

Many programmers relish the opportunity to incorporate the quartercolon into their code. "I think it will revolutionize obfuscation in Perl programming," said one anonymous hacker.

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Not all were pleased with the addition of the quartercolon. English teachers were one group upset by the move. Terry Whitehead, President of the NEA and English Teacher at PS125, said, "Students these days can't even use an apostrophe properly, and now we expect them to use a new punctuation mark with confusing rules? I don't think so."

While the quartercolon did gain approval from IGSO, a few other punctuation marks were not accepted; the quotation-comma, the question point and the "Jeff" were all rejected.

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