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Book review: Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation, by David Crystal

(Released October 2015)

By Nicole North

 Making a Point: The Persnickety Story of English Punctuation

This latest book by world-renowned linguistics authority David Crystal showcases his talent for instructing writers of English while entertaining them with great wit and a punchy narrative style. Punctuation is the focus of Making a Point, and Crystal gives a detailed and straightforward history of its use as well as effective advice.

For Crystal, punctuation is about improving legibility, avoiding ambiguity, reflecting the natural rhythms of speech, and clarifying complex sentences. Editors and writers of all sorts will find this book helpful. Crystal uses examples from an impressive array of works—short stories, poetry, novels, essays, advertisements, and emoji-laden text.

Each example illustrates topics pertinent not only to specific genres of writing but also to greater points about today’s uses of punctuation. This study of punctuation as a window into linguistics in general and effective communication in particular elucidates a key aspect of writing and editing. (more…)

Punctuation styles on different sides of the border

By Samita Sarkar

Some time ago, a client contacted me when her manuscript was sent back for revisions because she didn’t use “American punctuation.” So what does that even mean?

It may seem odd, but depending on the part of the world you reside in, you will not only face pronunciation and spelling differences, but even differences in where you place your commas and periods. According to British conventions, periods should be placed outside of quotation marks. For example:

He told me, “Remember where to place your periods”.

This is different from American punctuation standards, where the conversation might go as follows:

She said, “Remember, you’re in the United States now.”

However, the rules change when exclamation points and question marks are part of the quoted material, in which case the British switch to the American way.

(more…)