Purposeful Punctuation: A Syntactic Guide to English Punctuation

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Purposeful Punctuation: A Syntactic Guide to English Punctuation—Writing Style 3 is available at Amazon.


Here is a sample pdf of Lesson 1.

Writing Style 3

My favorite recent American novel is Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing. In it, McCarthy doesn’t punctuate conventionally. Whether or not it is a better novel because of its odd punctuation is debatable. There are certainly times when a reader is confused because of his nonstandard practice, but that is hardly the only cause of confusion in the work. I like it anyway.

I am not a purist about punctuation, but as an editor and writer, I see many good reasons for knowing and using conventional punctuation. It is, first of all, an aid in clarity, showing proper relationship between the structures of our sentences, letting the reader know when one phrase, clause, or sentence ends and another begins.

Conventional punctuation is also a part of a long history of bookmaking, of typesetting, of the appearance of the work on the page. Some of the ways we punctuate seem counterintuitive. For example, why do commas always go inside quotation marks? They do because early typesetters liked the way it looked. Whatever the reason for the conventions we have, we have them. We have a social compact to be conventional when we are best served by doing so. At times, skillful and knowledgeable writers have chosen to go their own way and have punctuated unconventionally yet effectively in order to accomplish their purposes in particular sentences. Few are as unconventional as McCarthy.

This book is one of my guides to writing style. It should be fully understandable without a study of the other guides, but it will be much more easily understood if the reader has knowledge of the English sentence structures taught in Writing Style 1.


Here is a PDF of the cover of Purposeful Punctuation.




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Purposeful Punctuation:
A Syntactic Guide to English Punctuation

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