Sunday, March 29, 2015

What's wrong with punctuation marks?

(rock art by Byron Dyck. Photo by Leanne Dyck)

There are many similarities between Cockroach by Rawi Hage and Caught by Lisa Moore. Both books are set in Canada, both were written by authors at the top of their game, both protagonists are skirting the law and both books don't contain a single quotation mark -- or a pair. None. Zip. Zero. 


When Lisa Moore was asked why. This is what she said: (link) (She talks about her reasons at the end of the interview.)

Lisa Moore believes that not using quotation marks gives the reader freedom to exercise their creativity.  

But I think quotation marks perform a useful service. They keep things contain, they make things easier for the reader. 

Quotation marks are visual cues that isolate one group of words in a text from another group. The isolated groups may be the exact words of a speaker, or writer, titles of various kinds, or words used in a special sense. 
- Handbook for Writers by Jane Flick and Celia Willward (p. 173)

Of course, just because quotation marks make things easier for readers doesn't mean that the same goes for writers. In fact, in English Grammar for Dummies, Geraldine Woods writes that the rules for properly using quotation marks 

'[I]s a list even longer than the nation's tax laws.' (p. 151)

But she adds...

'[Q]uotation rules aren't as hard to follow as the regulations set by that beloved government agency, the Internal Revenue Service.' (p. 151)

As you can see this topic is deeply personal to me.

I like punctuation marks. I'm a punctuation marks type of gal.

I'm not alone...

Nonen Titi writes:  'Quotation marks are vitally important.'

In fact, I've fallen deeply, passionately in love with the em dash. At times, driven by this passion, I've tried to squeeze one of these slim, striking, versatile, useful lines into every sentence.
'The em dash is perhaps the most versatile punctuation mark. Depending on the context, the em dash can take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons -- in each case to slightly different effect.'  - the punctuation guide
 I heard the plight of a fellow admirer and was outraged. 

Too many hyphens

How dare they censor his work. How dare they try to control his love.

People have tried to "help" me control my passion for the em dash. In fact, Jane Flick and Celia Millward (remember them?) write...  

'Properly used, the dash adds variety and lightness to writing; improperly used or overused, it gives the impression that the writer is flighty or disorganized. Use the dash, but sparingly, and not as a substitute for clear thinking and well-constructed sentences.' (p. 167)

Flighty? Flighty? Disorganized, sure. But flighty. Okay, so, maybe they have a point. And, so, from now on I will try to control my passion. But starting sentences with 'And' or 'But' that looks really cool, now -- doesn't it?

How do you feel? Do you love punctuation marks as much as I do?
What writing no-nos do you commit?

(photo by Leanne Dyck)

And this is happening...


Active Pass Festival 
mission statement:  'To promote and celebrate the natural beauty and wildlife of the Active Pass Region of the Salish Sea, the unique communities within it and the art it inspires.' , the festival is designed to showcase these significant natural values, coupled with the rich history and creativity of the adjacent island communities.
-from the website
Date:  April 17 to 19
I'm giving an author reading at 11 AM on Sunday, April 19 at the Mayne Island Library
My reading is one of seven author readings being given that day, during that event. 
More about Mayne Island, BC, Canada 

LitFest New West


Mark Twain House & Museum's "Royal Nonesuch" Humour Writing Contest
for all ages
Deadline:  July 10, 2015
Word limit:  7,000 words
Cash prize
Submission fee:  $22 (18 and older) $12 (17 and younger)

The New Quarterly
Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest
Entrants must be Canadian or currently residing in Canada
Cash prize of $1000
new deadline:  April 13th

Author visit...

Cuffed:  Vancouver International Crime Fiction Festival
announces that...
Ian Rankin, the Scottish crime writer best known for his Inspector Rebus novels, will be coming  to Vancouver on November 16, 2015

(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Next Monday:  How the best writing teacher teaches

Sharing my author journey...

Me:  I spent a fun evening this week preparing for my upcoming author reading. 
You:  What? You're reading? Where? When? 
Me:  Yes, for more information, please stroll up and read about the Active Pass Festival. 
I'm looking forward to reading to you.


letscutthecrap said...

I like full punctuation or I get confused. Just as meanings change when punctuation is placed improperly, I'd have a devil of a time reading without any. I read Cockroach. Didn't like it but soldiered on. Can only remember parts of it and I read it a year or so ago.
Congrats on your reading.

Leanne Dyck said...

Thanks, Tess. It should be fun. I will be one of seven authors reading.

Laurie Buchanan said...

Leanne — I'm an em dash felon! I use them inappropriately (and sometimes appropriately). Some people use crack. I'm an em dash addict!

Leanne Dyck said...

Sing it, sister. All praise the noble em dash. : )