Tuesday, March 07, 2017

On the lighter side…

by Rick Blechta

I’m a bit under the gun today with Things That Need Doing, so I’ll eschew the Sturm und Drang of my recent posts and instead present something for your delectation that’s fun but also interesting. It comes from a posting I saw recently on Facebook, that wonder of information and time-wasting engagement.

The basis of the article is this: what would it look like if you stripped away everything except the punctuation from some famous novels? (http://mentalfloss.com/article/75602/what-famous-novels-look-stripped-everything-punctuation)

Interesting, no?

Now try this (whether you’re an ink-stained wretch or not): take an extended piece of your writing and do the same thing. (The search and replace function will help with this. Just ask it to replace all the letters and numbers with nothing.)

What do you see?

Well, in my case, I see too many damn commas. The trend over time in writing has been to use fewer commas. The thought being that they stop or slow down the eye’s flow as lines on a page (or screen) are scanned. Basically the current accepted role of commas is this: use them only where clarification or easier understanding of a sentence is needed.

Stripped of my verbiage (and that’s another whole can of worms for me), I am obviously way behind the curve as far as current use of punctuation goes.

So, I’m left with this: use fewer commas and simplify my sentence structure and use of “waffle words” — as one editor-friend calls them — to just make everything more “lean”. That still leaves me with a lot of latitude to craft wonderful descriptions and engaging dialogue while making things move along more smartly and clearly.

And who says Facebook is a total waste of time?

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