Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yes, Punctuation Can Be Controversial!

Readers of this blog may remember that I am fascinated by punctuation and how it is used. (You see what an exciting life I lead!). So recent mentions in New York Magazine and elsewhere that the writer Cormac McCarthy has declared a sort of war on what he deems excess punctuation – mainly semicolons, exclamation points, and quotation marks – caught my eye. Intriguingly, it turns out that he – out of love for science – has copyedited at least one book on science, and told the author from the beginning that he would excise as much punctuation as possible. His own work uses punctuation sparsely. Although I agree with McCarthy that too many exclamation points are a problem, I have a fondness for both commas and semicolons (see my post of 10/16/10 on semicolons). Of course fiction operates by different rules, but at least for nonfiction, I am in favor of whatever clarity can be added through judicious use of punctuation.

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