Week of January 20, 2013—Syntax Needn’t Be Taxing
Thursday, January 24— Punctuation
In addition to end punctuation, there’s lots of internal punctuation which can add
sentence variety to your writing, add voice, affect pacing, help add details, and
more. Again today, I’ll use examples from The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.
Morris Lessmore to demonstrate the use of each of the internal punctuation marks that
Comma Before and After a Sentence Interrupter
Rather than looking down, as had become his habit, Morris Lessmore looked up.
Note how you can remove the “interrupter” between the commas and have a
complete sentence. What’s in between the commas adds additional details.
Comma after a Sentence Opener
Drifting through the sky above him, Morris saw a lovely lady.
Note how the the portion of the sentence after the comma could stand on its own.
The “opener” adds details.
Comma before a Sentence Closer
The flying lady knew Morris simply needed a good story, so she sent him her
Note that the first part of the sentence could stand on its own, independently. The
portion after the comma adds details.
Italics to Add Emphasis
Morris wondered if his book could fly.
Quotation Marks to Set Off Words
The book led him to an extraordinary building where many
books apparently “nested.”
Commas in a Series
Morris found great satisfaction in caring for the books, gently fixing those with fragile bindings, and unfolding the dog-eared pages of others.
Ellipses as a Transition
The days passed.
So did the months.
And then years.
And years . . .
. . . and Morris Lessmore became
stooped and crinkly.
Dash to Add Details
. . . till everything Morris knew was scattered—
even the words of his book.
Note how the dash causes a pause in your reading, then the additional details tell
you more about the first phrase.
Now I’m not going to tell you that the my examples are the only ways you can
use internal punctuation to impact the syntax of your writing, but I will tell you that if
you master these eight strategies, you’ll have a great writing toolbox at your disposal.