Sunday, October 24, 2010

Write Right Part Two: Punctuating with Purpose

If you were to ask any successful writer what their style was, it's probable, they’d be unable to verbalize the exact elements of their style. Effective writing style resembles fashion in the respect that there are many ways to dress nice, but a flawed garment will immediately ruin an entire outfit. This brings us to another writing error we frequently see: the lack or misuse of punctuation. If and when used correctly, punctuation can add a great degree of style to writing, because a variance of punctuation usage will lead to a variation of sentence structure and length. Just as traffic lights and signs are needed to create practical paths of navigation while driving, punctuation is almost required to direct readers through your writing with the least amount of clutter, obstruction, and/or boredom. Let’s pretend for a moment, that a school-teacher was making preparation to submit a statement of purpose to enroll in law school. How do you think his letter of intent would be received if it read as followed?
My name is Bradley Hall. I teach 4th grade. I live in Wilmington, Delaware. I have taught for seven years. I now desire to go to law school. I hope to enroll in the Blue Bonnet University. I have no money for tuition. I offer many great things. I am creative. I am passionate. I am transparent. I am willing to work hard.
Have you died of boredom yet, or are you like any review board, ready to reject this letter of intent with no questions asked? There are no grammatical mistakes here, no spelling errors, no botched homophones; however, there is no life or style in the text. There is nothing that would suggest that Bradley is passionate about this endeavor. Now, let’s take the same sentences and add life to them by simply adding punctuation.
My name is Bradley Hall—a fourth-grade teacher from Wilmington, Delaware. I have taught for seven years, but now I desire to go to law school. I hope to enroll in the Blue Bonnet University; however, I have no money for tuition. I offer many great things such as: creativity, passion, transparency, and a willingness to work hard.
Let’s examine the punctuation added to our simple paragraph to make it more stylistic.
  1. Em Dash: It allows for a break in tone, or in thought.
  2. Comma: In the paragraph above it was used to separate a clause and it was used to list.
  3. Semicolon: It is used to separate two independent clauses. Be careful though, both clauses must be able to stand alone as separate sentences if the semicolon were absent.
  4. Colon: In this case, it was used before a list of ideas or concepts.
In conclusion, there is only one way to master the effective usage of punctuation: PRACTICE. Don’t be afraid to try out various sentence structures in order to improve your writing style. Remember, there IS a writer within you. Again, writing is no ominous task that is set aside for some elite group of people. We are committed to help establish and discover as many writers as possible. If there any questions surrounding the use of punctuation please leave a comment. Also, check back in a few days for Part Three of the Write Right series…