Go ahead, punctuation, make my day!

I’ve spent the entire morning corralling colons, stalking semicolons and shepherding slippery ellipses. Period. Not to mention the hyperactive hyphens and dizzy dashes. At this stage, I’m exhausted. Exclamation mark

Yes, I’m editing my novel. No, it’s not great fun. I’m seeing more dots and lines floating before me than an overworked Morse code operator. Tis all terribly mundane, but has to be done. The characters in Mrs God do take a breath, pause, forget what they were saying. Others get all shouty! or ask questions? So, you know, the weird symbols that don’t pop up in the alphabet need to be inserted in the right places.

Or do they, question mark

After all if James Joyce can go without why can’t we lesser folk. cormac_mccarthyThe problem is not every writer is bashing out stream of consciousness tomes. Cormac McCarthy applies the Joycean method to punctuation in his novels. They’re not stream of consciousness tomes. His whittled prose is so sparse even quotation marks are surplus to requirements. McCarthy uses just three:

“I believe in periods, in capitals, in the occasional comma, and that’s it.”

There are more commas in his quote than a chapter of The Road, exclamation mark exclamation mark funny face.

My opinion is that writers shouldn’t get too wrapped up in punctuation. Yes, the squiggles and dots are there to help the reader, but, as James and Cormac have shown, readers are more than able to understand what the words mean, even if the page they are written on isn’t peppered with symbols.

If we spend too much time punctuating, we would be editors, not writers. Full stop.


  1. Clare Hunt · · Reply

    I agree with you 100%! My generation was hung up on punctuation and I suffer still from that phenomena! Can’t wait for Mrs. God. Hope She is worth the wait! At least I now know there will not be an exaggeration of punctuation marks. Exclamation mark. Funny face.

    1. Haha! So do I, Clare. It’s been 21 years since honours English, so there’s a lot of syntax under the bridge… 😉

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