Thursday, March 31, 2011

Let's Eat Grandma! (Why punctuation matters and why it doesn't.)

What I'm reading right now: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson 

I'm still reading the second book in the Mistborn triology.
So far it doesn't have quite the same steam as the the first, but it's engaging in a different way. The only reason I'm not moving it through it as quickly as I did Mistborn is because I'm also reading The Child Thief at the same time. My Nook makes bouncing between novels far too easy. :)

P.S. Click here for a great deal on a Nook.


Why Punctuation Matters

Okay, so this topic has been done before, (hasn't everything?) from a panda wielding firearms to a Purdish Owl, but I've come across some humorous and poignant examples. Would this topic keep surfacing if we didn't continue to find egregious errors in the script of our beloved tongue? Seems like just the ticket for a logophiliac.

First, the humerous:

Example #1 (contributed by my friend Lady Blue):

Let's eat grandma!


Let's eat, grandma.

I'm thinking grandma would prefer the latter, as would I (my grandmother's a tough old bird).

Example #2:

Eat, Ray, Love

The October 2011 cover of Tails magazine draws our attention by the unique method Rachael draws on for inspiration. Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog. I always wondered how she comes up with all that energy!

Okay, truth be told, this is a hoax. The cover was produced with appropriate commas, but some rapscallion photoshopped-out the punctuation. You can see the actual cover here. Still, a fine lesson in the value of punctuation.

And finally, the poignant:

Example #3 Woman:

An English professor wrote the words:

A woman without her man is nothing.

on the chalkboard and asked the students to punctuate it correctly.

All of the males in the class wrote:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

All the females in the class wrote:

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Unfortuantely, I don't know to whom I should credit this. This is my favorite example not only illustrating the importance of punctuation but the power it can lend our writing.

And Why It Doesn't Matter

That being said, don't let punctuation get in the way of your early drafts. Get the story out, then get the red pen out.

I feel we do need to give equal time to the other side. Once you know the rules you can effectively break them. Please note, I said effectively. There's probably no better example than Cormac McCarthy. He effectively uses a lack of punctuation in his books (at least the ones I've seen). His writing has merited him:

The Faulkner Award for The Orchard Keeper
The National Book Critics Circle Award for All the Pretty Horses
The National Book Award for All the Pretty Horses
And most recently The Pulitzer Prize for The Road.           

When you reach the level of Cormac McCarthy, you can do pretty much anything you want. Until then, I'll keep following the rules.

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