P … is for punctuation

P[1] is for punctuation. There are few things in writing as scary as punctuation, except perhaps grammar, but fortunately we’ve reached the letter ‘P’. Breathe sigh of relief. There are two ways for me to deal with this deep and detailed topic: the easy way, or the hard way. I’ve always been known as someone who avoids the ‘easy option’ if possible, but today my dear reader, you’ll be delighted to know I’m going for the easy option.

What is the hard way to explain punctuation?

It’s quite straightforward. I could write about; sentence structure, punctuation outside a sentence, punctuation within a sentence, punctuation within words … are you getting the idea? What I’m saying in my own inimitable fashion is, that I could spend the next couple of months building a book on the subject. I can’t afford the time, because later this evening I’ll be preparing my post on ‘Q’, for tomorrow.

Is punctuation such a deep subject?

Yes. It may be something we all like to believe we have a good grasp of, but sadly, most of us have a mere working knowledge. I include myself here, because I am continually watching out for glitches in my own writing. Only recently I found an excellent book on the subject, which I will detail at the end of this post. Don’t dare go straight to the end!

What is the easy way to explain punctuation?

By using a metaphor. I didn’t get this idea from a book; I just find metaphor is sometimes the easiest way to explain something. If you’re still with me, let’s move on. You don’t have to be a driver to do this exercise, because even a regular passenger in a vehicle can do it. You’re excited now aren’t you – yes, I can feel your eyes speeding up as you read the words. Stop! For the sake of the narrative, we’ll say you are using a car. Imagine you’re going on a journey, as long, or as short as you like. You get into the car and set off from the driveway, or kerbside. You notice a sign regarding the speed limit. Almost immediately after it, there is a sign referring to a pedestrian crossing, which is followed by another sign; about a local school. In less than 50 metres, there is a sign about a road junction up ahead. I think that should do it for the metaphor. Yes, we’re relating road signs to punctuation symbols. I’m not going to bore you with long and short examples, because I believe I’ve accomplished my aim. To put the whole exercise succinctly, if we consider writing as a journey, the punctuation is the road signs, which occasionally act as guide, safeguard, or warning. It may be an article, poem, short story, or novel, but it is a literary journey for both writer and importantly reader. If both the writer and the reader have a basic knowledge of the signs, they will both enjoy the journey. As promised, because you’ve been so patient and attentive, here is that link I mentioned earlier. ‘Perfect Punctuation’ I thank you for reading, and leave you now as we go on our respective journeys, but please come back tomorrow when I’ll be dealing with ‘Q’.

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