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SPOTLIGHT
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The power of punctuation

Published on -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

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I never will look at a comma in the same way.

Sure, there are lots of exciting punctuation marks that convey powerful emotion and strength, thus traditionally forcing the comma to take the figurative back seat. The exclamation point is my favorite by the way it creates drama and enthusiasm. (Yes, I've been known to use my fair share of this vertical-dotted mark!!) To think of the exclamation point makes me imagine a person with arms flailing, eyes bright and emotions heightened. Good or bad, you simply can't help but experience the feeling associated with this symbol.

Of course, the question mark helps clarify confusion while aiding the most curious minds to seek understanding. Just like the 2-year-old, I often find myself asking "Why?" simply because I want to know more. I'm not alone with my "inquiring mind." Just walk along a busy sidewalk in Hays to overhear one of my most favorite Ellis County questions, "Who do you belong to?"

If about this point in my column you are asking yourself, "Huh?," bear with me; I'll make my point soon -- pun intended.

I've read once about the dash described during a eulogy, explaining how this simple line between the date of birth and death signified so much. In this instance, the dash represented life -- how one person spent their time working, playing, loving or being loved. It was this example that made me look a bit closer to the comma to find its hidden depth and meaning.

Grammatically, I know this curved diminutive symbol is used to give the reader a chance to pause and reflect before our eyes scan the next word or list. Many writers often are confused on whether this little mark even is needed and either include too many or none at all.

Amazingly, our brains know something special is about to follow, even if we don't process the whispery thought into words. For me, personally, the comma became extremely special this summer. It now signifies four years of my life, culminating personal achievement with professional success.

In June, I completed 96 hours of nonprofit management instruction, earning my Institute of Organization Management (IOM) designation.

Because of this, I get to add, yes, a comma to my name along with three letters. I know many others have earned prestigious accomplishments, thus extending their own titles. When I see these in the future, I'll know their comma, just like mine, symbolizes great dedication, commitment and sacrifice.

Tammy Wellbrock, IOM, is executive director of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce.

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