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The Punctuation Tango: The Period and the Comma
Transcript of The Punctuation Tango: The Period and the Comma
"I believe most writers do not want to know the seventeen uses of the comma, or ponder the fourth century usage of the semicolon. Most writers simply want to improve their writing. They want to know how punctuation can serve them- not how they can serve punctuation." Noah Lukeman
Common Uses for Punctuation
- stream of consciousness
- passing time
- adding complexity
- capturing forms of dialogue
- building to a revaluation
- increasing pace
- keeping readers hooked
-ends a thought
- sets tone, style, and pacing
- all other punctuation exists to modify what lies between two of them
- to divide
- to connect
- to pause
-Hook reader - Dramatic license
"It was a pleasure to burn." -Opening line of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradybury
"All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive." - Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison
-Good for dialogue
-Quickens pace and intensity
-Think of a chase scene
-Completes intention of text or capture the author's thought.
"Sheppard kept his intense blue eyes fixed on him. The boy's future was written in his face. He would be a banker. No, worse. He would operate a small loan company." "The Lame Shall Enter First" by Flannery O'Connor
-Hurts. The. Flow.
-Reader riding sentence wave
-Feels more elementary
-Biggest issue is being short of Content
"He talked to the manager. She recommended a book. He liked it. He bought it." Noah Lukeman
"She bought a dress."
"She used her last dollar to buy a dress for her mother."
-Beginnings and endings of chapters-Poetic license to engage reader
-Stream of consciousness - the unraveling thought
-Character's viewpoint (wandering mind or obsessive)
Writers and long sentences
-Writer doesn't know how to end sentence
-Writer doesn't know purpose of sentence
-Academics are used to reading long sentence
-Long sentences for effect
Advice from the author
-Less can be more
- Readers today have less atten...
- Consider period in context of punctuation around it
- Mix long and short sentences
-Out numbers period 3:1
-Other punctuation 5:1
- Open to interpretation
-Uses are most varied
How To Use
-To connect-connect Several clauses into one sentence-connect 3 juvenile sentences into 1 grand idea-To provide clarity-distinguish different ideas in one sentence-To pause-allows reader to catch breath---
-connect several clauses into one sentence
-connect 3 juvenile sentences into 1 grand idea
To Provide Clarity
-distinguish different ideas in one sentence
-allows reader to catch breath
Passing of Time
-pause between speaking and thinking
-feel the moment
-give the men time to push back their chairs and stand up (p.48)
Altering sentence meaning
-The windows with the glass treatment are holding up well.
-The windows, with the glass treatment, are holding up well.
Off setting a clause or idea
- Taking medicine and eating well coupled with exercise can help assure a healthy life.
-Taking medicine and eating well, coupled with exercise, can help assure a healthy life.
Maximizing word economy
-I liked chocolate and she liked vanilla.
-I liked chocolate, she vanilla.
Danger of Overuse
-Necessity of comma causes it to be misused more than any other punctuation mark.
-Comma demands to be used frequently
-Main misuse is overuse!!!
-When laden with commas, sentences flow to a crawl, making readers feel as if they're plowing through quicksand.
-Comma pauses, qualifies, or divides a thought.
-If done too frequently, the original thought can become lost.
-Over qualifying can create a hesitant, unconfident feel.
-Academic writing, beware!
-Sometimes commas are unnecessary. If so, please omit!
Omission of the comma becomes a stylistic statement.
Use under use to:
-Speed up pace
-Read single, uninterrupted thought
-speaking in 1 breath
-Deliberately gloss over something important - make readers work
Dangers of Under use
-A sentence with no commas can be hard to understand.
-Every sentence has a natural rhythm inviting pauses.
-Dialogue often needs pauses. It can be interpreted differently without.
-More than one significant idea in a sentence, without commas, can leave those ideas blurred or missing.
-An aside or qualification might be glossed over.
-Meaning can become ambiguous.
-You must take into account the effect the comma will have on the punctuation around it.
-Commas steal the limelight. They lessen the effects of periods and semicolons.
-Punctuation and content are inherently connected.
-Just be deliberate!
-Deliberately defy consistency on special occasions
-Length of clauses, where to place the comma
-Every sentence will have its own requirements and exceptions.
What the comma says about you.
If you over use the comma
- might also overuse adjectives and adverbs
-tend to be repetitive
-give too much info
-grasp for new word choices instead of one strong choice
-be reluctant to have definitive stance
-have ambiguous plot
-be challenged to deliver dramatic punches
-be more interested in fine distinctions than pacing
-write an overly long book
-write with critics in mind
-fear of being criticized for omission
-more likely to have scholarly background (well read)
-consider too many angles
-need to simplify, take stronger stances, and understand that less is more.
If you under use the comma
-Has not developed an ear for sentence rhythm
-Unable to hear finite distinctions
-Thinks writing is solely about conveying info
-Needs to spend time reading classic writers and train himself to hear the music of language
-Sophisticated writer who has comma aversion
-Under uses them on purpose
-Rebelling against overuse of punctuation (targeting poor comma use)
-Writes for himself
-Interested in nuances of style
Lukeman, Noah. A Dash of Style: The Art
and Mastery of Punctuation. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.