Warning - Some posts may cause choking, spitting of beverage and /or a severe giggle fit. This advice brought to you by regular reader Louisa.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Punctuation Fluctuation

I'm just going to dive right in and pretend that it hasn't been three weeks since I last blogged. I'll also ignore the fact that I only blogged three times last month. (That's just so you know that I know how lax I've been).

So, punctuation. The fluctuation part of the title is mostly because it rhymes, but it does sort of make sense too, because I have good days and bad days with punctuation....

Let's just say that me and Punctuation are not exactly the best of friends (I'm not on great terms with Grammar either, but that's another subject for another day). I don't know why I can't get my head around it, but I've never been able to grasp all those bothersome punctuation rules. I can understand the basics, but when we get to the more complicated stuff, I'm lost.

Yes, there is complicated stuff with punctuation. Those of you who find it easy may laugh at this, but it's true. Take apostrophes (I wish somebody would take them, then shove them where the Sun don't shine). Most of the time I get them right, but I know for a fact that when it's a choice between its and it's, I probably pick the wrong one. I've read many explanations about how to decide which way is right, but I either get lost amongst the invariably long words that are used to explain the rules 'simply', or I actually 'twig' when I read it, only to forget all about it by the time I sit down to write something. It's just one of those Black Spots for me, and I don't think there will ever be a time when I don't struggle.

Those apostrophes bugger me up when it comes to names too. Well, not all names, just those that end with an 's'.  I mean, is it James's or James' (for example)? And what about those tricky plural words? I type as I speak usually (well, I don't go the whole hog and type in Taff speak all of the time, only on special occasions *wink*), so if I was saying 'everyone is there', I would naturally take out the 'is' and say 'everyone's there'. But should that be 'everyones' there' or 'everyones there' or 'everyone's there'??? Heck if I know.

And those.... er, I don't even know what they're called, but those series of full stops when a sentence trails off. There has to be a name for them, but I'm on the Heck If I Know fence again. Now, I actually know where these are supposed to go, so that's not the problem. But how many are there supposed to be? Three? Four? I usually go with four, but whether that's right or not is another thing. It's (its?) actually not as bad as it used to be, because when I first started writing a few years ago, there would likely be anything between three and ten full stops whenever I used a sentence that trailed off....

Moving on.

Colons. Ugh. *dies* I never use them if I can help it because unless I'm listing something in the middle of text (which is extremely rare), I really don't know where they're supposed to go. I'm mostly OK with semi-colons, but colons confuse the heck out of me. Oh, and while I remember, when I type 'OK', should that be OK, O.K., or okay? There's that fence again.

One thing I have grasped, is when and when not to use a full stop during speech. Microsoft Word used to drive me nuts because it kept capitalising (capitalizing - z or s? That's another thing that bothers me, those pesky z and s quandaries. I think that might be a spelling thing and not a punctuation thing though, so I won't blather too much about that one today) the words directly after a spoken piece of text. Leanne (my fellow Burrower, who actually inspired this blog post today, by the way, because she fixed up my punctuation errors in my blog post for Burrowers, Books & Balderdash - thanks Leanne!) explained that I needed to put a comma before the closing quotation marks if I wanted to put a 'he said etc' afterwards. Well, she said it it in a far more technical way than that, using several big words that went over my head, but I got the gist of it (shocking the heck out of me), so all was good.

And as for those quotation marks, should it be one or two when typing speech? Or does it really matter? *falls off the fence*

So yeah, me and Punctuation have a strange relationship. Probably not ideal for someone who is frantically trying to polish and edit a novel for publication, but there we are.


  1. I also hate how different languages seem to have different punctuation rules. Currently I am trying to pretend I know the difference (which I really don't) between Norwegian, American English and British English (yes, there is even a difference between AE and BE). In reality I only end up with a mish-mash of it all, though I am pretty adamant on sticking to my mash, so until someone can prove I am wrong, I'll just do my thing...

    Yay that you're back :)

  2. *giggle* I thought I might be the guilty party on this one. ;-) Quite a few of your quandaries are indeed the differences between British and American English, and honestly I read so much Britlit that the boundaries are starting to get a bit blurry for me too. The z-vs.-s thing is a US/UK thing as well. Just say "stuff it" and WRITE and I'll fix it for you later. ;-) That way I get to READ IT. *nudge*

  3. These things ... ... ... are called ellipses. And I only point that out because the word is so much fun to say. Ellipses! And I think the standard is three, but I like to add more depending because I think it implies a difference in the length of pause, or in the rate of trailing off.... but that could just be me. :P

    I hate punctuation, too. Apparently, I, overuse, commas. Bah humbug.(...)

  4. I always doubt myself when it come to punctuation and have to look it up. I know some who have a handle on it and I'm so jealous.

  5. The only rule I could help you with is the ellipses, '...' and '....'. Four go at the start to denote starting in the middle of a sentence and three go at the end when it trails off.

  6. Mari - I have enough problems with the AE and BE, never mind an entirely different language altogether. I don't know how you do it...

    Leanne - Ah, now I KNEW that the z and s thing was the Brit vs American version, but what other stuff can be blamed on that? There's gray/grey, the whole o/ou shuffle (color/colour etc). Hmmm. And you're definitely not 'guilty', because all you did was inspire a subject to blog about, and that's very good indeed. :)

    Kas - ha! Ellipses! See, I've actually heard that term before, so I must have known it. It was just buried VERY deep inside my head. And I TOTALLY get you on the use more for longer pauses thing.

    Clarissa - oh Lordy, me too! I don't think I'll ever stop being envious of those who get the entire punctuation process.

    Maria - Yay! Not only do I know what ellipses are now, I know how to use them! Thanks! Though I'll probably forget by tomorrow... *shifty*

  7. I think we do self-impose a block on ourselves with punctuation. I dislike semicolons because I think they are ugly and messy beasts, but also because I've never been able to master them.

    One day I'll lock myself in a room and learn how to use them. But I'm in no hurry.