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The Assumption Mark

Updated: Apr 26

English grammar rules provide us with question marks, exclamation marks, and quotation marks but no assumption marks.

Why not an assumption mark? Is it because it’s good to question, to be excited, and to speak, but it’s bad to assume? What does it mean to assume?

To assume is to conclude something

without having all the facts.

Here are three examples of assuming:

  • My boss wants to speak with me, so I must be in trouble.

  • Tim didn’t call me tonight, so he’s not interested in me anymore.

  • People don’t talk to me at parties, so there’s something wrong with me.

People make assumptions routinely that create hurt and isolation. Therefore, I believe humanity would greatly benefit from using a special symbol designed to notify readers when an assumption is being made--to announce when a conclusion is being proffered that may not be true. To avoid the cost and disruption to the world from having to create an entirely new symbol, I propose that assumptions be inserted between less-than “<” and greater-than “>” symbols.

Here is an example of the use of the new assumption mark:

Martha: “<You’re such a creep.>”

John: “Why? What did I do?”

Martha: “<You weren’t nice enough to Kathy.>”

John: “What? I spoke with her for twenty minutes last night. Any longer, and <she’d think I was coming on to her.>”

Martha: “<Oh, you’d like that!> <You like flirting with women.>”

John: “No, I don’t. I love only you. <You get so uptight sometimes.>”

What great insight is revealed by the assumption mark! How many hearts, lives, and perhaps even nations would be saved with this new clarity!

But no good thing comes without resistance. Here’s <what the naysayers would say about the new assumption mark>:

  • It looks awkward.

  • It requires extra work.

  • It seems like a pointless thing to do.

  • It distracts from the real communication.

Don’t these criticisms apply equally to actual assumptions? The symbol is <perfect!>

I could go on and on about the sociological and physiological damaging effects of making assumptions. Still, I think <you’ve caught the vision of my brilliant idea,> and <that's enough for now.>

If you don’t like the new mark, you should consider making fewer assumptions in your life.

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Very true. Have you heard of a book called The Four Agreements. They are (paraphrased): never take things personally, never make assumptions, always do your best, and be impeccable with your word. Not a bad list.

J.J. Richardson
J.J. Richardson
Apr 07, 2021
Replying to

I haven't, but I'll look it up and check it out. Sounds like good advice.


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