Thursday, January 29, 2009

Punctuate by How It Feels

Renowned American essayist Russell Baker once wrote that punctuation is to writing as intonation is to speaking. This advice means that if you read your sentences aloud, you will usually hear where the periods, question marks, commas, and hyphens go.

This point was well illustrated in one of my seminars by Magda Hanna, a customer service representative at the Provident Bank. After she correctly punctuated a sentence with multiple commas, I asked Ms. Hanna how she knew the answer.

“I went by how it feels,” she said.

We had not yet discussed the punctuation rules applying to that sentence, yet she had the answer. The idea makes sense, provided you know the general uses of each punctuation mark. Read the sentences aloud, and you’ll probably punctuate just fine.