How are you????? How am I????? Can’t you tell????

If you are one of those people who sends out messages with four or more question marks at the end of sentences, I have two bits of advice for you.

One, don’t. A physics lecturer at the University of Loughborough in Britain was fired because of "intimidating texts" he sent to other staff members, full of question marks.

And two, do. A judge awarded Dr Binoy Sobnack (for that is the lecturer’s name for those of you who keep a record of these things) £15,000 for unfair sacking. You can question the sacking, or the judgement, using as many question marks as you like.

What is it about question marks that gets people’s hackles up??? Is there a minimum number beyond which the hackles are allowed to rise????? Is there a ‘safe’ level?

I can think of many questions that would irritate even with a single question mark. Here are some: You think so? Hmmm? How many times have I told you? Are you sure you didn’t eat the last piece? Seriously? Can’t you think of something else? Why don’t you listen? That last was one of the many from Sobnack that went out accompanied by a host of question marks.

Is it only question marks and exclamation marks that irritate people???!!!! The former seems to give the writer a superior air while the latter is like laughing at one’s own jokes. For a time, there was a move to combine the two punctuation marks for questions that were funny or ironic. Thankfully, it died out.

Sometimes even full stops irritate people. Apparently it sends out a message that the user is angry or upset. I was told this by a young nephew when I entered the world of social media. I ignored him because I would rather be known as an angry or upset person than one who doesn’t understand punctuation or grammar. I resolved the business of ALL CAPS early, and kept away from them because of the obvious message they send out. It does look like the sender is swearing at the receiver.

Commas don’t irritate, neither do dashes, but semi-colons do. Perhaps because they look pretentious or an in-between kind of a mark, neither full stops nor commas, and people hate in-betweeners. Line up enough commas at the end of a sentence and no judge will sympathise with you.

I can tolerate excess usage, but if you want to get my goat, or draw my ire, all you need to do is use ‘air quotes’. They don’t look bad on paper, but the hand signs are obscene. Any court that bans them has my support.

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