How I Use Punctuation

Hmmmm. I'm not sure the best way to write about language, but I know I want to. It's nice to reflect on how one writes (compared to others). Let's start with certain punctuation styles that I use disproportionately often.


  • I often use an exclamation point to finalize a sub-thought (like this!). This helps me express enthusiasm (and reference the side-tangents that I naturally have!). This is similar to closing a parenthesis with a smiley (like this :). I used this "!)" form 55 times in my 100-page book.
  • [] and {}. I used to write these more often when I had nested parentheticals (e.g. like this [or this {or this!}]). But I've switched away from this recently because it's too confusing for readers. If I find myself trying to nest parentheticals, I'll usually just find a way to make extract one of the two parentheticals from its parentheses. I only used this "nested parenthetical" form 1 time in my book.
  • Putting e.g.'s and i.e.'s in a sub-thought (e.g. like this). I find that the ()'s reinforce the idea that e.g.'s and i.e.'s are a sub-thought. In my book, I did e.g. inside ()'s 10 times and i.e. inside ()'s 25 times.
  • Definitional ()'s. Sometimes I'll use ()'s (instead of using a comma or an em-dash) to define a word. You can see this with "blob" below.
  • Overall, my book has 606 ()'s, so about 6/page.


  • /: A slash allows me to do a variety of things, but most often it allows me to loosely point towards a "blob of related ideas". e.g. This (current) post is about language/punctuation. Often, slashes indicate both a lack of specificity, but also that one is operating with abstractions. I have 210 /'s in my book, about 2/page. (Check out this post from a linguistics professor on how slash is a new type of punctuation mark, which doesn't come along often!)
  • "": Quotation marks are generally used to signify that I'm using a term in a "non-standard" way. It allows me to elevate the idea in the quotation marks to a "special" status. I have about 500 quotation mark sets in the book, or about 5/page.
  • #'s: Hashtags act as permissionless labels to build a community around a new concept. There's lots to say here, especially in the context of movements and community building. For now, I'll just link to this piece: Memes as an Institutional Vehicle.
  • -based: I'm a big fan of the adjective "____-based". It allows you to describe the mechanism, e.g. Information Revolution-based change. Or the perspective/lens, e.g. Information Revolution-based mindset. I used "-based" 59 times in the book, or .5 times/page.
  • <>: This is a way to show a feedback loop. i.e. It's the lazy (/emoticon) form of 🔄.

I think that most bloggers should have a "language" page like this (just like many have a "questions" page). If you'd like to see some of my stranger ideas on the future of the role of non-words in language, check out: Representing Ideas: An Argument For (and a Systemization of) Visual Thought.