Sunday, December 17, 2017

Punctuation: Should We Follow the Formal Rules?

In my writing, I do follow the formal rules. But others are more flexible, In the article from Lithub, Stephen Spector makes the case for a relaxed philosophy of punctuation. Here are his concluding paragraphs:

The language expert Robert Allen says that punctuation is to writing what stitching is to clothing: just as stitches hold a garment together and help give it shape, punctuation helps hold our words together and gives form to our writing. It’s a good analogy, since style is important in both clothing and writing. You want your punctuation and mechanics to enhance what you’re saying, not to distract from it. In fact, as Allen says, the key test of good punctuation is whether your readers are aware of it or not. The less they notice it, the more successful you’ve been. But isn’t it difficult to stitch words together? And how many of us are master tailors anyway?

Here’s the truth: the basic rules for punctuation and mechanics aren’t hard. It’s partly a matter of your personal style. In 1939, one prominent grammar book said that punctuation is “governed two-thirds by rule and one-third by personal taste.” I’m not sure that we can quantify it that precisely, but our punctuation practices give you a lot of latitude to make personal choices. And some of the greatest writers have regarded their choices as an essential aspect of their art.

You can read more here.


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