question markMy homey Rockabye brought up an interesting topic over IM last week: why do certain punctuation marks on the standard keyboard require a shift key to type them when other seemingly less-common ones do not?  This made me stare at my keyboard for a while and come up with a few very strong opinions:


  • Whoever decided on what goes where did a good job with the shiftless period and the comma.  The period is going to end the vast majority of sentences, so it’s good to make that one as easy as possible.  And, might I add, all of the “dots” we type in urls (which certainly weren’t taken into consideration back in the day) made the period’s usage go up even more.  Second, the comma, depending on who you are and how liberal your usage is, can figure quite prominently in emails, documents, and blog posts.  I realize hitting a shift key is not a terrible hardship, but it is a tiny extra step that, when multiplied by the gajillion times I hit those two keys, would certainly add up.
  • Another one of which I approve is the hyphen key (after the zero).  I use “-” so much more often than the rare “_” that I would probably be devoting an entire angry bullet point here if they were reversed.  So well done…whoever.
  • The first shift-key-needed choice that comes into question for me is…the question mark.  Yeah, I use the slash from time to time, but not nearly as often the question mark.  Not only that, if I’m typing on my computer at work which has the separate number keys to the right, I can use the slash key above those instead of the one hogging the question mark key.  That said, those slashes are used in the aforementioned urls and they’re probably needed for a whole bunch of programming stuff I don’t understand, so there are likely large groups of people who like the slash’s shiftless status.  (I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever written “slash’s shiftless status.”  Hey, now I’ve done it twice!)
  • I probably use semi-colons more than the average person; I enjoy their unique contribution to the punctuation society.  That said, I still use the colon more often and think those two should be reversed.  It’s that simple for me: if it gets used more, it should be easier (even microscopically) to use.  But like my doctor always says, if you’re having a hard time finding the colon, just keep searching and you’ll eventually find it. 
  • I have no quarrel with the plus and equal signs.  I use both infrequently and would probably go to the ones by the number keys anyway.  They can stay where they are.
  • Now we get to my two biggest problems and my proposed solutions.  First up, the lovely parentheses.  I use these guys quite often (if you haven’t noticed), and yet I have to hit the shift key every time.  However, the bracket keys (next to the P) don’t require it.  I so rarely use those keys that  I honestly can’t remember the last time I did, and I’m pretty sure I have never used the weird bracket things sharing those keys with them.  Why do the brackets get their own keys when parentheses don’t?  That’s bullshift! (Thank you, thank you.)   I propose we swap those immediately.  I’ll get used to finding my parentheses elsewhere in no time.
  • Second, I use quotation marks fairly often.  Not only that, there are millions of people out there using them incorrectly every day to bump their usage up even more.  Here’s the problem: it’s the shifted version of the apostrophe key, which gets even more play.  What to do?  Oh I know what to do.  See the key to the left of the 1 that has some kind of backwards apostrophe (or accent mark) and what appears to be a tilde?  Yeah, neither of those need top-billing.  Here’s the plan: we make that key the question mark (right next to its cousin, the exclamation) and slash key.  The reverse apostrophe goes over the current apostrophe, and the quotation (with the tilde above it) goes where the current slash/question mark are.  Ta-dah!  Problems solved.
  • Lastly, do you see that key to the right of the seldom-used brackets? If your keyboard is like mine, then it’s a forward slash on the bottom and something I honestly don’t think I’ve ever looked at above it.  I’m sure someone uses it for something, but seriously, fuck that key.

So I guess I had a couple of thoughts on the subject.  How about you, fearless readers?  What did I leave out and where do you think I’m wayoff target?  (Ya know, aside from caring about punctuation placement on a keyboard.)

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