The 2015 Shady Characters gift guide

It’s December, and that means it’s time for the second annual Shady Characters gift guide! In no particular order, here are a few gifts to consider for the punctation-phile or language buff in your life.


Last year I focused on mainly non-literary gifts; this year, happily, has seen the publication of a number of new books on punctuation. Here’s the first: David Crystal’s Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation is a combined history and usage guide that explores punctuation in English from medieval monasteries to the internet. I reviewed it for the Wall Street Journal and had a great time in doing so — the first part in particular, in which Crystal takes the reader on a breakneck journey through the history of English punctuation, is a joy to read. More serious than Shady Characters and less judgmental than Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, it’d make a great gift for writers, readers, and teachers.

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Maximal meaning in minimal space: the history of punctuation

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Miscellany № 27

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The apostrophe, for some reason, is one of those marks that raises hackles no matter how it is approached. I write in the Shady Characters book about a news story that ran back in 2002, when the city council of Nottingham, England, instituted an “apostrophe swear box”. Infuriated by misuse of the apostrophe by council workers, Graham Chapman, the council’s leader,

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Miscellany № 17

I visited London this weekend, continuing my niche campaign to explore the world of computer-to-Monotype interfaces. (If none of this makes any sense, take a look at my earlier post about the last working Monotype caster in Scotland.) Having seen Harry McIntosh’s system first-hand in Edinburgh, this time round I prevailed upon Phil Abel and Nick Gill of London’s Hand & Eye Letterpress to show me the system installed at their own workshop, of which much more in a future post.

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