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.

Read more →

Miscellany № 58: a selection of long reads

A back to basics post this week — here are a few longer articles and websites for you to peruse at your leisure.


Erik Kwakkel, who writes the scholarly yet readable Medieval Books blog, recently posted an entry tracing the development of footnotes in the medieval period. Erik’s writings were a great source of inspiration for me as I researched The Book, and in this instance he has managed to hit upon a subject that unites both Shady Characters’ interest in punctuation and the wider world of old books. He writes:

Read more →

Miscellany № 39: smart quotes for smart people

[Could not find the bibliography file(s)
As you know, the American edition of Shady Characters was published on September 24th — which is, of course, National Punctuation Day. In honour of this auspicious event (National Punctuation Day that is, not the book’s publication), Jason Santa Maria, the polymath founder of Editorially and A Book Apart, launched a simple website to promote Smart Quotes for Smart People. As Jason succinctly explains:

Read more →