A Period? Is Not? A Question?

by Mary Beth Huwe

Click the play arrow to hear me read this essay to you:

Editors are picky. I can dress that concept up and say selective or discerning, but when it comes down to it… stuff annoys me for very specific reasons.

When we were little, my sister would not – would not – eat “wet meat.” Pot roast? Get outta here. Sauce touching your chicken? Forget it. She was categorically offended by wet meat. So she ate a lot of cereal.

Words and communication are like food to me… they have a flavor, a texture, a je ne sais quoi that inspires visceral reactions in me. (Don’t for example, ever say “moist” in my presence. Moist cake is way worse than wet meat. GROSS.)

As an editor, I don’t get annoyed about mistakes or typos. I love typos, in fact. But unconscious repetition of language without reflection drives me bonkers. It’s mob mentality, and it disturbs me.

Mindless patterns show up in language a lot – because language is a living thing. It belongs to those who use it. We don’t need to look far back to see changes… just consider the slang you used as a teenager versus what you say now. Or what you hear “kids these days” say. Or what Wally Cleaver said… jeepers.

Language is meaningful on multiple levels. So when there’s mindlessness, it has an effect. The trend that bothers me right now, and in a big way, is the one? Most popular among females? In which all pauses? And periods? Receive interrogative inflection? Do you know what I’m talking about?

Here’s a real question: Can we please stop that now?

Yes, the cadence in itself bothers me. And I acknowledge that I have slight rigidity about punctuation. And whenever my behavior reminds me of Walter from “The Big Lebowski” (Am I the only one who gives a shit about the rules anymore?) I know it’s time to breathe or exercise or contemplate prior restraint. I acknowledge all those things.

But the thing that fundamentally irks me about the mindless habit of unnecessary interrogative inflection is this: it demonstrates and reinforces a belief in both speaker and listener that women are neither to be taken seriously, nor are they to make declarative statements. It is an exercise in timidity that I find deeply disturbing.

A period is not a question.

It’s okay for ladies to make a statement.

Approval is not required.

So let’s do that!

Let’s do it in our speech.

Every day.




MB Outdoor HeadshotMary Beth Huwe is a writer, an editor, and a strategist. She helps people identify, articulate, and translate their most essential messages into kickin’ content that is both communicative and practical.

These essays are forays into the art and essence of communication. They have not been subjected to the full scrutiny of said editor’s eye, and may contain typos. (But you’ll probably never find apostrophe abuse, because that’s just cruel.)