Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cats, Chicagoan claim quotation, comma contest

Posted By on 12.07.11 at 01:15 PM

Ann Heinrichs
  • Ann Heinrichs
It was the best, of punctuation; it was the worst, of punctuation. We reported a few months ago that Chicago achieved an ignominious distinction when a Western Avenue facade was nominated for “Dumbest Sign of the Year” by the organizers of National Punctuation Day, which fell on September 24. Happily, the city has been redeemed. Today NPD announced the outcome of its annual paragraph contest, in which competitors were tasked with writing one three-sentence paragraph that included 13 separate punctuation marks: apostrophe, brackets, colon, comma, dash, ellipsis, exclamation point, hyphen, parentheses, period, question mark, quotation mark, and semicolon.

One of the ten winning paragraphs—and, it must be noted, the only submission whose theme was feline in nature—was submitted by north-sider Ann Heinrichs.

Heinrichs's submission:

Get that [*******] animal off my keyboard!” he roared—apparently abandoning his (short-lived) enthusiasm for her new kitten. Clearly, the honeymoon was over: first, the tantrum over hairs in the sink; next, the brouhaha about the napkin rings; and now, the paroxysm aimed at Tippy. Jenny’s mind raced over her options: Should she leave him . . . or should she kill him?

In an e-mail Heinrichs says that she used to be associated with the Reader—in the 1970s, she was the paper's first classical music critic. Since then she's been a book editor, an advertising copywriter, and most recently the author of juvenile nonfiction on history, geography, culture, and politics. She's in the midst of a career transition: Heinrichs recently obtained a master's in library science, and has a part-time gig in the Poetry Foundation's library.

All that aside, though, Heinrichs's interest in grammar stems from an earlier source: nuns. "When I was in grade school under the tutelage of the good nuns of Fort Smith, Arkansas," she writes, "we had a big fat grammar textbook and a grammar workbook every year from third grade on. I ate the stuff up. The puzzle of language could be solved! The bucking bronco of human communication could be saddled and broken! Just learn the rules. So I did."

Heinrichs wrote in again to say that she also authored a children's book on punctuation.

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