Student says her patriotism was questioned over misused punctuation

Professor said comments were meant as humorous gesture

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A St. Johns County student says her professor called her patriotism into question because of misused punctuation.

Lindsey Lopez is a third-year student at the St. Augustine campus of St. Johns River State College.

Lopez said after she accidentally used a British form of punctuation in an essay, and her professor left comments calling her "un-American" and said that she disrespected America.

There are two major styles of English punctuation: American and British. One of the big differences in the two comes with using quotation marks. The American version is to place periods and commas inside quotes while the British way is to place the commas on the outside of the quotes. 

In a paper for her history course, Lopez left a period outside the quotes, and said because of that, her professor told her she had disrespected America.

"He goes onto say, 'This is very un-American, and Americans died for you to be able to punctuate the correct way.' Then towards the end, he goes on to say, 'Please do not disrespect America by punctuating otherwise," Lopez said.

She said it was an honest mistake, and she comes from a military family. She said she thinks the reaction was blown out of proportion.

"I mean, this is not an English class, and I've gone through English classes, so I know that I'm supposed to punctuate the correct way throughout essays and I know he's supposed to correct me and take points off for it, which I put in my email to him, but those comments were just so unnecessary," Lopez said.

The professor reached out to Lopez and apologized for insulting her. He said his comment was made in jest, and that humor is difficult to interpret through an online class. He also sent Lopez the following email: 

"I apologize for insulting you. My comment was done in jest. I realize that my sense of humor is difficult to interpret through an online class where there is no personal contact and I will change that comment in the future for my online students as I understand your misinterpretation."

The vice president for academic affairs told News4Jax the school received the complaint Sunday. She said the instructor replied to the student's email of concern within 10 minutes, apologizing and taking responsibility. The vice president for academic affairs also said  the comment had nothing to do with discrimination. She also said they have taken the proper steps to address the issue and believe the situation is resolved.  

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