Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Story About Punctuation

When I began writing my first novel, I struggled with punctuation. It had been years since I had written anything, and even more years since I had really cared about the topic. Lucky for me, I don't have cable. One night as I was flipping channels, a basic English course came on one of my local PBS stations. (Yes, I watched it. Yes, I realize that's pretty lame.) I learned everything I needed to know about punctuation. It's pretty simple, really. I wrote down the basic rules. (Yes, I took notes.) I began practicing, and by the time I finished that first novel I felt pretty confident about punctuation. Amazing what a little simple instruction will do. Now I'm known as the Punctuation Nazi to members of my critique group. Not that I mind the title. I've even created a few basic rules of my own to help me remember what certain punctuation marks are for. Here they are:

The Semi-Colon
Use when two sentences want to hold hands; some things are better together.

The Em Dash
Change your direction--like this--and if you want, come back again.

For side notes and the occasional afterthought (because it's fun).

I learned that punctuation does not need to be something that hinders writing. Rather, it should be something that enhances it, that helps you say what you mean to say. And, It's also pretty awesome for making little computer characters. 

( )_( )
( *.* )
(") (")

The punctuation mark and I lived happily ever after. :)


Anthony Dutson said...

Ha! That's awesome. Punctuation and grammar have always been difficult for me. It always takes me awhile to pick up a new rule. Today's lesson was on the em-dash. ;)

Andrew Leon said...

Nothing against your dashes, but I mostly hate dashes. They serve, in the example you gave, in the same capacity as parentheses (or commas), so why bother with them? They're just something that confuses the issue for most people. I spend a considerable amount of my editing time, when I'm editing for other people, correcting misused dashes, so I kind of wish they would just go away.

Melissa Lemon said...

I feel the same way. Their uses are so similar. I had an editor once who favored the dash over the parentheses. I've also been advised to use both for some variety.

Anonymous said...

Melissa this really helped me. I've been struggling with when to use the em-dash . I am going to post these rules on my computer to forever remember them! Great post.