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It’s all about the punctuation, really!

November 15, 2018

Late last month, the Daily News wrapped up its 10-part series of stories titled “At Home in Greater Nebraska” that was a collaboration with the Nebraska Community Foundation.

Then, just last week, some Daily News staff members had the opportunity to participate in part of the foundation’s annual celebration that took place in Norfolk.

I was asked to share a few words with those at the foundation’s banquet about the series and why the Daily News thought it was worth the time and effort to undertake the project.

(This latest series was actually the second collaborative effort between the Daily News and the Nebraska Community Foundation, following up on an earlier series of stories that was titled “Together a Greater Nebraska” and focused on communities, counties or regions that were leading the way in planning for the future.)

For me, it all came down to thinking about punctuation.

The focus of the series was to place a spotlight on individuals who had either grown up in Northeast and North Central Nebraska, moved away and then decided to return — or individuals who had no strong ties to this corner of the state when younger but ended up living, working and raising a family here.

It’s an important topic because of the ongoing concern about the exodus of young people from Norfolk and, especially, smaller rural communities to urban areas.

Showing that the reverse happens, too, seemed particularly newsworthy to us at the Daily News.

But where does the punctuation aspect come into play?

I realized that, in many cases, when young people make the decision to return to the place or area where they grew up, they often are greeted with: “You’re moving back to your hometown?”

And with those words often comes a raised eyebrow, a hint of incredulity or a slight sense of skepticism.

Here at the Daily News, we don’t think that should be the case.

In those kinds of situations, we’d much rather see an exclamation point instead of a question mark used to accompany those words: “You’re moving back to your hometown!”

That one small change alters in a positive way the entire tone of the sentence and accompanying sentiment.

Instead of incredulity or skepticism, there’s a sense of excitement and even joy.

One change of punctuation changes everything.

If publishing a series of stories like “At Home in Greater Nebraska” can help promote that kind of punctuation change, then it’s all worthwhile for the Daily News.

Because we’re unabashedly advocates for Northeast and North Central Nebraska.

Here’s hoping our series not only provided interesting reading, but also helped the effort.

We will be looking for ways to collaborate further with the Nebraska Community Foundation in the future.

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