Some Thoughts on Punctuation

When I used cummings’ quotation about laughter, I deliberately referred to him as “e e cummings.” Why refer to E. E. Cummings as “e e cummings”? It was the practice of his admirers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, to write about cummings in the manner of cummings’ poetry. e e cummings used punctuation in novel ways and for presentation.

In her book Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (2003), Lynne Truss wrote about the importance of punctuation in English (UK and USA). Her book has been parodied and criticized; some authors wrote about a significant number of punctuation errors in her book.

Without stating a personal position on this conflict, it seems to me that it is clear that punctuation is critical in conveying the writer’s meaning.

And a last comment, in a quasi haiku:

man in a coma– / no longer worries / about punctuation

Note: it’s a quasi haiku because there is no seasonal reference or “cutting word.”

About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Authors, Books, Notes on the Literary Life. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Some Thoughts on Punctuation

  1. Andy,
    I probably ought to add Lynne Truss’ book to my library wish list. I’m terrible at punctuation!

    Loved the quasi haiku! Coma, comma — what’s the difference? ha!


  2. Hi Carolyn, thank you for your comments!

    Before you buy a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves – please check out the Wikipedia section on “criticism.”,_Shoots_&_Leaves

    I love word play, so that’s where the quasi haiku came from. I’m delighted that you enjoyed it! Coma, comma – exactly!

    Press on with your writing! All the best, Andy

  3. C. R. Lanei says:

    The problem with a lot of grammar issues is that a minority of people pay close attention to it. This has less to do with education than with the fact that our brain fills in the missing parts. It is the same principle with art. We fill in missing details when there aren’t so many missing that it becomes unclear what we are looking at.

    This isn’t to say that we should throw away grammar and punctuation. But we should acknowledge that so far as conveying information it isn’t always as big a deal as we make of it. Stylistically though it can be a huge deal.

    Steven Pinker talks about this in–Language Instinct I think.

    • Hi C. R. Lanei,

      As always, your comments are thought provoking. Thank you.

      “But we should acknowledge that so far as conveying information it isn’t always as big a deal as we make of it.” – agreed!

      I was aware of Eats, Shoots and Leaves – and its popularity – but not of the controversy which followed its publication.

      Language is very interesting to me. I think I may have something by Steven Pinker. I’ll have to check….

      Press on with your writing! Blessings, Andy

  4. elisajeglin says:

    I completely agree with C.R. Lanei. Nothing erks me more than when someone looks down on a piece of work because they found a few typos. Half the time I don’t even notice typos if I’m engrossed in the story or book I’m reading.

    I also enjoyed your quasi-haiku at the end, very entertaining, it put a smile on my face ;p

  5. Hi elisajeglin,

    Thank you for your comments.

    You put a smile on my face as I read your comment about the quasi-haiku!

    I’m thinking:

    writer in a coma– / no longer worries / about punctuation

    Best wishes, Andy

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