Punctuation: friend or foe?

21 Jul

Last time out, I talked about re-reading something I’d written a long time ago, and my astonishment at what I’d written.  Then, I ran into a slight road-block on my way to re-publishing this book by its original title That Room at Ardenwycke rather than the shorter title selected by the publisher that first time around: Ardenwycke Unveiled.  I needed a new cover, and couldn’t think of one. So I went to the second of the two books  – this one being the first book I ever wrote (and completed – important distinction, that) Bertie’s Golden Treasure.  It’s a Regency Romance, and a cover illustration popped into my head almost immediately, so I decided to go with that one first, and then come back to Ardenwycke.

Bertie-cover

A funny thing happened as I re-read Bertie, using the file from which the previous print book was made. I have always been profligate with punctuation, especially commas. To my distress, there were almost no commas in this book! Sentences were either really short, or ran on for seemingly forever before they finally came to a full stop. I put a lot of commas (and some other punctuation, as well) back in there.

It dawns on me that very likely the use of punctuation is an ‘age’ thing. Most older folks learned how to speak in an understandable fashion (not at a rate of 500+ words per minute) and write comprehensibly, because they  also learned the proper use of punctuation. Then the minimalist trend hit. ‘Why is that comma there? It isn’t needed, so get rid of it!’

To me, however, it is needed there. For someone who reads aloud, or is on radio or even TV, punctuation is a necessity! It tells you when to breathe! It’s that simple. No wonder many of us older folks are continually telling all-too-many  younger folks to ‘slow down, please’ or ‘I’m sorry, could you please repeat that?’  (Hopefully, us older folks also know the value of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, when used appropriately.) And yes, I do believe that last comma there is in the right place. Commas do not always go inside quote marks.

(As a for instance here. For fifteen years, I read for the Cleveland Sight Center, which operated a small, closed-circuit Radio Reading Service for the visually-handicapped community. For two hours each Wednesday evening, with a partner, we read from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Shortly after beginning this venture, I also began to record books for the Library of Congress Talking Books Program – and at least one of them is still there!  Through those years, I taped more than 100 books for the Sight Center and Cleveland Public Library. Also for a while, I was the Saturday announcer on our local classical music station. Later, as a writer, I was selected to be one of five or six reviewers chosen to attend classical music performances in the area, and then write a review, which would be taped the next day at the station for broadcast during the coming weekend. It took me little time to learn that – at my reading speed – 475 written words equaled just less than 3 minutes pf spoken words – the max limit. Actually they were to be 2 minutes, 57 seconds worth.  Believe me, the value of punctuation was never more apparent than during this exhilarating adventure!)

If you write mainly for yourself, you may, of course, do whatever you wish, even if you self-publish. If you wish to be published by a commercial publisher, however, that publisher will have already established its own ‘style’ of punctuation and other elements of the written word. This may include font, font size, spacing on the page and whether headers and/or footers are used, etc. In this case, the publisher wins the argument, and a wise author will agree.  It’s really quite simple. If you don’t agree, you may forfeit the right to be published, or possibly, the changes will be made without your knowledge or consent. Not fair, but thems the rules!

Just for fun,  the cover for Bertie, which I hope to have available at Amazon’s Kindle site later this week – or early next is shown at the top of this post. Ardenwycke is still in the proof-reading/create-a-cover process.

As always, questions or quibbles should be sent to me at: bookmechanicATgmail.com     Thank you!

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One Response to “Punctuation: friend or foe?”

  1. v1ct0r1a July 22, 2015 at 2:26 am #

    I enjoyed your post! All hail the commas, most definitely so we know where to breathe. 😉

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