Book Review: Shady Characters: The secret life of punctuation, symbols, & other typographical marks by Keith Houston
Originally posted on 27 Nov 2022
- Title: Shady Characters
- Author: Keith Houston
- ISBN: 978-0-393-06442-1
A good friend gifted me this book last Xmas and I immediately started reading. Then life intervened and I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t finish the book until yesterday.
Which is a shame, because it’s a charming and deeply researched work. Houston steps through the evolution of several different forms of punctuation, and does so in an engaging and friendly way that makes you want to keep reading (my performance notwithstanding).
While Houston’s prose has its own punctuation, whenever he refers to a form of punctuation he covers in the book, it appears in red ink (though I raise an eyebrow at how his colourblind readers may perceive this). Some items appear in the margins. There are many quotes. The book itself must’ve been a royal pain in the ass to typeset, and I imagine there were several rounds of proofs to review and correct. Kudos to the team for making that slog to create an enjoyable end result.