Love and Puctuation

by Jill Edmondson

As an English teacher, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that online dating just isn’t for me. After scoping out the single men online, I’m convinced that instead of maybe someday finding Mr. Right, I should just give up now, and instead adopt eight cats and learn to knit. Why the pessimism? I blame it all on semicolons. I can’t seem to divorce my professional self from my personal self.

As I read through one dating profile after another, I weep for the swift, certain death of “whom,” resign myself to a future where words are spelled phonetically, and grudgingly admit that proper punctuation has gone the way of rotary dial phones.

The dating profiles I peruse on sites such as Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid, and Match are frequently rife with mistakes and abusages of the English language. I regularly come across errors such as: this is a photo of my cousin and I, we could of been, I like all kinds of movies accept horror, I have alot of hobbies, and so on. Many of these blunders are simply a result of carelessness, and perhaps I shouldn’t make such a big deal about it. But I do. When I come across something like this, I want to gouge my eyes out:

Hello to all you beautiful lady’s who are searching for...

Could I date a guy who use’s apostrophe’s to pluralize word’s?

I have a little discussion with myself: Am I being too harsh? I’m afraid to embarrass him by pointing out the mistake. Am I being too much of a pedant? If I gently correct him on this, he might think I’m uptight. Could I learn to live with? He really sounds like a wonderful guy, and it would be silly to discard him for something so trivial. I let my imagination fast-forward: I’m married to Mr. Apostrophe, and we have two kids. I come home from work and see a note on the kitchen counter:

I took the kid’s to the sport’s shop to get their skate’s sharpened before hockey practice. I’ll pick up some snack’s for them on the way home.

I know that some day, one of his notes will push me over the edge, and I’ll eventually start to slip small doses of arsenic into his dinners. I resume my search online. I’ve narrowed the parameters to only show me men who are university educated. Aha! That will weed out the bad spellers and grammar cannibals!

I soon come across this profile:

like sports , to find someone that doesnt lie ,, iam very loally to the person iam with ,i like all kinds of music, likes to go out for dinner ,movies ,drinks, likes to have fun,also pleasethat person ,also who wants to out and have fun.

At a minimum, the man’s self-description is an indictment of our post-secondary education system. The teacher in me wants to give him an “F.” It isn’t only the carelessness evident in the typos. Even if this “paragraph” were error free, it’s still a weak example of writing from an (allegedly) educated adult:

I like sports. I want to find someone who doesn’t lie. I am very loyal to the person I am with. I like all kinds of music. I like to go out for dinner, to see movies, or to have a few drinks, and I like to have fun. I’m looking for someone who also wants to go out and have fun.

The revised version still merits no more than a “C+.” There’s absolutely no flow to it, no finesse. Is this really the first impression he wants to make? I’d love to contact him just to find out how many dates he’s had.

I browse more profiles. I see a picture of a handsome man with a nice smile. I click on the profile and read his “tag line”: Great-Catch: Looking for chemestry. If he can’t spell it, he’ll probably never find it.

And maybe I’ll never find what I’m looking for either, whether it’s chemistry or a tall, dark and handsome wordsmith. But hope springs eternal. There’s got to be a guy out there who’s not just Mr. Right but who’s also Mr. Write.



Jill Edmondson

Jill Edmondson is the author of the Sasha Jackson Mysteries, including Blood and Groom and Dead Light District. She lives in Toronto, where she teaches ESL and essay writing.

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