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’.

That’s write … innit ?

Image (4)

I can now report that I’m pleased with my new editing tool – Grammarly. Proofreading is hard to do accurately on your own work, and if you pay for it to be done by somebody else, you will pay dearly. Grammarly I’ve decided is better than a ‘halfway house’.

As my graphic would suggest, it gives you four main areas of back-up; Punctuation, Grammar, Spelling and Synonyms. In the programme synonyms are referred to as ‘enhancements’.

Like all wonder tools, it has it’s drawbacks, but even when taking them into consideration, I would still recommend the tool for the independent publisher. If, like me, you are publishing eBooks on Amazon or another site then you may allow eagerness to take over, just when you should be considering the reader. Yes, remember those nice people that you want to spend money on your hard work – well, they’ll be expecting a well-written, well-presented book. We can’t blame them can we, because it’s what we would want too.

I’ve just spent two weeks with Grammarly and used it on both of my e-published novels. At one end of the scale I was delighted with my spelling, but at the other end, I was dismayed at my grammar. Nothing more to be said there.

Until recently, I didn’t realise how many proofreading programmes were out there. There are those you can use free, and there are those you pay for – and like all things in life; you get what you pay for. I read the profile, pricing, and reviews on three different systems before opting for Grammarly. It’s affordable, easy to download, and easy to use. It does have the need to connect to the Internet – and keeping your browser clear of excess cache files is a good idea, because that will allow the system to run smoothly.

Write the document, open Grammarly and watch those numbers accumulate; Grammar, Spelling, Enhancements. It will tell you when it’s completed the check.

It’s still a good idea to insert the ‘suggested’ amendments manually. There is an option to click and let the system change the punctuation, but occasionally there is a suggestion to drop a comma within a word. On odd occasions, the programme will suggest that there is no punctuation at the end of a sentence. When the system is wrong, you will see clearly that there is punctuation.

Apart from that, it might not recognise a word that you abbreviate within dialogue, like, thinkin’, or nothin’, for example. It will give the option to ‘add to dictionary’. Place names are another favourite for non-recognition, as I found out with both my books. Click to ‘add to dictionary’, and off you go again.

A nice touch, if you’re like me and were last taught grammar and punctuation a long time ago, is an option for a short, or long explanation with the suggested amendments. I’ve found that the short explanation is usually enough for my needs.

Was I satisfied with one session of ‘filtering’ my novels with this proofreading system? No, I wasn’t. I went through both books twice, and the fact that the system brought up the same things (place names, etc.,) as the first time, gave me confidence in the method. My books may still not meet the strict criteria of the purist, but I’m happy that I’ve done all in my power to improve them – except pay out excessive money.

If you’re interested in trying it, there is an optional free trial period. As an example, I used the Grammarly system on this piece of writing and it highlighted the need for inserting a comma on two occasions. The programme also highlighted my examples; ‘thinkin’ and ‘nothin’.

Link:   http://www.grammarly.co.uk/