• Julie Gray

Punctuation: Your Creative Friend

Punctuation. It conjures images of red marks, doesn't it? Of mistakes. Bad feelings. Proofreading. But punctuation can also be a creative aspect of your writing. Anyone who has ever received a text message that says "Okay." versus "Okay" has just a tiny experience with this.

When someone ends a text with a period, we think, what did that mean?!

Yes. Punctuation can infer meaning, especially in dialogue, but it can also convey the rhythm of the writer. Your narrative voice. In other words.

If you have ever read or listened to the dialogue by David Mamet, you know what I mean. Mamet of course, is famous for the stuttering, interruptive way his characters speak. Which he could not convey without the punctuation that goes with it.

Many writers have played with punctuation as an instrument of narrative style. Here is a fun list of writers who used punctuation almost as another character in the book.

So often, we writers struggle to simply make the time to write, don't we? That's hard enough. Or we read and reread what we've written and it's just not good enough! Writing is, as every writer knows, one of the most difficult, isolating, frustrating, exhilarating addictions on earth. We're just not good enough! But there are many ways to slow down, even when you're having a bad writing day and to just play around a little bit with style.

Punctuation can be like dance steps on the floor; it guides the rhythm of the read. One way to think about using punctuation not just correctly but creatively, is to read your work aloud. Where the pauses? The silence. The suspense. The - uncertainty?

Sometimes we forget to develop our "voice" - our personal style as writers. So think of punctuation not just as something you must get right - we do, after all, have proofreaders among us - but as another part of your narrative and authorial style.