Writing Tips: Punctuation is King

0630-wires-comma_full_600You’ve got the story right, your characters are there and fabulous. You don’t really care about anything else; punctuation be damned! It is just periods, commas, semi-colons, etc—right? Wrong. Punctuation can make or break a story; interrupt the flow, make things confusing and if you have any readers who are sticklers for things like that, you may lose some business. Finding a trusted editor is of course important, but get your feet wet for your own proofreading with these tips.

Commas (or those dangling things)

Commas are useful for breaking up a sentence or even adding a pause. It is the comical difference from “I am going to eat Henry,” to “I am going to eat, Henry.” Now, a common error is placing commas how you would speak, as pauses as you would dictate in person. Be careful with those as it makes things choppier than the ocean during hurricane season. Commas are useful to separate similar ideas in a sentence “I am not going to work today, my boss is an idiot.” It is useful after an introduction “Grabbing her gun, the woman ran from the bank robbery.” As you can see, we have touched on just a few instances where commas are important. As you can imagine there are several more and some can be a matter of preference (Oxford comma anyone?). Want to learn more? Be sure to contact Pypeline Editing.

Semicolon (or those super high-tech commas)

Semicolons are like periods, but without ending a sentence altogether. This prevents what could be deemed “choppy” (think oceans during hurricane season) but for all intents and purposes, the ideas could stand alone as separate sentences. The example above in Commas (or those dangling things) “I am not going to work today, my boss is an idiot” could substitute the comma for a semicolon and have a similar effect. As you can see, punctuation is finicky. Learn the tools and the tips so you can break the rules confidently and with reason.

Dash (or a very important straight line)

You may have seen these—this is the punctuation which demands attention. Use a dash (longer than a hyphen) to point to important information in a sentence. The situation of which to use a hyphen is similar to that of a semicolon, but with more emphasis. “The woman was tired—cutting up corpses will do that to you.” The woman is tired, but that isn’t what is important. Who cares? Most people are tired. I don’t remember a day I wasn’t tired. The urgent part—the amazing part of the sentence is the fact she cuts up corpses. Use these when you need a little oomph, but be careful. Using dashes repeatedly in place of a semicolon will lessen the effect.

Punctuation is king, now you can be royalty too with your own quick tips from bells of the ball—Pypeline Editing. Have questions, want more information or really want to argue over Oxford commas? Contact us today; we will always make time to argue over Oxford commas.

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