The Purpose of Punctuation


“Punc­tu­a­tion is a means, and its end is: help­ing the reader to hear, to follow.”

–Thomas McCor­mack, as quoted in Eats, Shoots and Leaves* by Lynne Truss

McCor­mack says, fur­ther, that the pur­pose of punc­tu­a­tion is “to tango the reader into the pauses, inflec­tions, con­ti­nu­ities and con­nec­tions that the spo­ken line would convey.”

To tango the reader into…! Isn’t that lan­guage just gor­geous?!

(By the way, you’ll notice McCormack’s and Truss’s British style of punc­tu­a­tion. If you won­der why there’s a colon where I wouldn’t nor­mally place one, and why there is no “ser­ial comma” used, it’s because of the dif­fer­ences between Amer­i­can and British writ­ing styles. Inter­est­ingly, I just learned last week­end at the AWESOMECopy­edit­ing Boot­camp” work­shop I attended that, more and more, for copy­edit­ing pur­poses, the pre­ferred style of spelling and punc­tu­a­tion — even among British pub­lish­ers — is the Amer­i­can style. You learn some­thing new every day!)

* http://​cmp​.ly/5

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