Monday, December 7, 2009

Why punctuation matters: Bike-riding-hipster edition

a bike-riding hipster
I was using the men's room at Hole in the Wall last night and noticed the words FUCK BIKE RIDING HIPSTERS! scrawled violently with marker above the toilet. Now, I knew what it meant. But it took a second of processing because I was confused momentarily by the lack of punctuation.

Punctuation is an important aspect of any style of writing. Whether you're an academic or a journalist, or even just a blogger or restroom-insult-writing rebel, punctuation matters. Punctuation is clarity, and clarity is key in all forms of communication. Writing, quite obviously, is communication.

Why I was confused by the sentence: It has a verb, a compound adjective, and an object. BUT... the verb ("fuck") is also known to be used as a noun from time to time, and can even be used as part of a compound adjective. The word "bike", too, can be used as a noun, verb, and part of a compound adjective. Therefore, punctuation is needed to clarify the role of each word in this sentence.

I'm assuming the pissed patron meant "Fuck bike-riding hipsters." As in, fuck hipsters who ride bikes. But without that crucial hyphen, the sentence could have been read as "Fuck-bike riding hipsters" (as in, there's a "fuck-bike" and it's riding hipsters) or "Fuck-bike-riding hipsters" (as in, hipsters who ride "fuck-bikes") or even "Fuck, bike-riding hipsters" (as in, Fuck, man, here come the bike-riding hipsters). The options are nearly endless. But one well-placed hyphen immediately clarifies the intended meaning of the sentence.

That's why punctuation matters. And that's this week's grammar lesson, courtesy of 'NITES: A blog for Austinites, and hipster-hating drunks everywhere. Cheers!


Justin said...

This post is brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I like to fuck bike riding hipsters

Anna said...

hilarious! as a bike rider, i am very curious about this "fuck bike"

adrian said...

brilliant stuff a.j.