1. cazann34

    cazann34 Active Member

    Sep 18, 2012
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    Scotland, UK

    The rules of punctuation.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by cazann34, Jan 3, 2013.

    'The rules of punctuation vary with language, location, register and time and are constantly evolving. Certain aspects of punctuation are stylistic and are thus the author's (or editor's) choice'

    I copied and pasted this from 'Wikipedia' The 'constantly evolving' bit had me wondering, will I ever catch up?

    Which 'stylistic' punctuation would you consider to be the authors choice? Commas? dashes? Or do you think we should follow the rules to the strict letter and not deviate from them?
  2. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
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    Near Los Angeles
    There's plenty that's the author's choice.

    For example, I tend to leave out commas where other writers would use them, because without commas a passage reads faster and that's an effect I like.

    (Other writers might have punctuated the previous sentence like this: "For example, I tend to leave out commas where other writers would use them, because, without commas, a passage reads faster, and that's an effect I like." But to me, there are too many commas in there and I'm forced to plod through it when I read it aloud.)

    Commas are great for controlling speed, and hence mood. They should be handled with care. If you stick to absolute "rules" of comma usage, you can wind up with effects in your prose you're not striving for and do not want.

    Punctuation rules have to be flexible and writers have to learn to trust their ears. Read your work aloud, and when it sounds like the rhythm is right, you've probably got the punctuation right.

    It could be that training in music at a fairly early age helps in this. I've been singing all my life, playing piano since I was six (though I seem to have given it up in the past fifteen years because I don't have one in this house), and guitar since I was ten or so. That's a lot of ear training. It makes me very confident in my punctuation, at least when I take the time to get it right.
  3. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Jul 17, 2008
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    Commas for sure. As minstrel said, it's used to control the speed and introduce pauses in places that may not conventionally have pauses. Sentence fragments are also used to control the speed. Using (or not using) quotation marks for dialogue is another thing that's the author's choice.

    Nonfiction, on the other hand, is a lot stricter about breaking rules. You really don't see the rules being broken in newspapers, research journals, etc., at least not on purpose.
  4. blenderpie

    blenderpie Member

    Dec 29, 2012
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    Language is constantly evolving. Luckily, the MLA is a lot slower at accepting these changes, and style also says a lot. Most of the quick changes are vocabulary changes, like calling something "sick" when you meant awesome or a "tool" when you meant a jerk. A few years ago, they might not be in a book, and a few years from now, they might stop being used in writing because they've fallen out of popular favor.

    Stylistically, there is a lot more wiggle room, but not an endless amount of room. My most common grammatical "no no" is fragments. But, I feel like. that. is. really. popular. :p

    If it's worrisome to you, an MLA manual from a year or two ago (and the rules don't change enough to really make a difference) should be fairly inexpensive. Or, the Purdue Owl has a lot of really helpful grammar lessons and tutorials you can google.
  5. F.E.

    F.E. New Member

    Dec 20, 2012
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    Er, it's probably talking about stuff like: (the below excerpt is from Language Log: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001672.html )
    Notice that the example sentence in that excerpt uses a comma between its subject and verb. :)

    That practice was common (i.e. standard) back in the 18th century. But nowadays, that type of punctuation is usually marked as being non-standard (unacceptable).

    You might want to also look up in a usage dictionary the issue of "which" vs "that", and see that in that discussion that there was a time when "that" could also introduce nonrestrictive clauses (besides introducing restrictive clauses).

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