From the now-ubiquitous hashtag to the loved, hated, and misunderstood semicolon, punctuation marks not only help us shape our stories, but also have their own origins and histories and have become part of the narratives of our lives. Here are picks about six punctuation marks, from the comma to the asterisk.
When Pauline Kael typed “prevert” instead of “pervert,” she meant “prevert” (unless she was reviewing something by Jacques Prévert). Luckily, she was kind, and if you changed it she would just change it back and stet it without upbraiding you. Kael revised up until closing, and though we lackeys resented writers who kept changing “doughnut” to “coffee cake” then back to “doughnut” and then “coffee cake” again, because it meant more work for us, Kael’s changes were always improvements.