Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Bad Punctuation Rules

Bad Punctuation Rules

Image Courtesy of Svilen Milev ~

There’s been quite a bit written about what’s “right” or “wrong” on this blog

And, quite recently, I’ve used and defended a situation of punctuation that I feel strongly about.

Here are two takes on that situation (with my opinions):

John told me, “I will never end a sentence that way!”

That’s the way the “rules” say it should be punctuated

But, “John told me” isn’t the kind of beginning that demands an exclamation mark at the end

So the “rules” left out a period (“full stop” for some of you).

Here’s what I think is the logical way to punctuate that sentence:

John told me, “I will never end a sentence that way!”.

That may look “horribly wrong” to some of you; but, I believe that’s only because we’ve had the “rules” “forcing” us to accept the first example

Of course, it could be rewritten to avoid such a shockingly logical ending:

John nearly screamed at me when he told me he’d never end a sentence with a period outside the quotes.

Kind of loses something that way, in my humble opinion

Then there’s my dear friend Emily Dickinson.

She would write a bit —

With a breath taken —

And continue…

I used to think that all the dashes in her poetry were just her asserting her emotions—then, I found out lots of folks in the USA were doing the same thing, back in the late 1800s.

Now it’s time to reveal what got me on to talking about punctuation today.

The Guardian has an article called, Sats tests will harm next generation of writers, says Society of Authors.

A few excerpts:

“Children’s authors are warning that the ‘restrictive’ way children in England are being taught writing in school will affect the next generation of novelists, biographers and poets.”

“…members of the Society of Authors…condemn current government policy on the teaching of writing and grammar. They say the government has intervened too far and that ‘the resultant teaching no longer reflects what writing really does’.”

Some folks are probably choking over the way I punctuated that last excerpt’s end (check out the article to see the original sentence).

One more pertinent excerpt:

“As year 6 children [10 & 11 year-olds] sit their Sats tests this week – including spelling, punctuation and grammar – the authors say that when the Department for Education introduces new terminology for grammatical structure, such as ‘fronted adverbs’, and insists that exclamation marks can only end sentences starting with ‘what’ or ‘how’, it risks ‘alienating, confusing and demoralising children with restrictions on language just at the time when they need to be excited by the possibilities’.”

Just as an interesting point of international punctuation confusion—the article, in a UK newspaper, said, “including spelling, punctuation and grammar”; yet, most often, I believe, in the USA, it would “properly” be, “including spelling, punctuation, and grammar”—one extra little comma

Regular readers of this blog know I’ve been a maverick all my life—I really wasn’t so much confused or demoralized by punctuation or grammatical rules—I just changed them to suit my own logical priorities—though, there was enough other stuff that did confuse and demoralize me

And, concerning what the UK government’s Department of Education said about exclamation marks, do read this wonderfully authorial article.

Finally, for the link-clickers out there, here’s a somewhat related article—A Better Way to Read
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4 responses to “Bad Punctuation Rules

  1. Jane Watson May 11, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    The linked article by Anne Rooney is great!! ( Not sure if you are allowed to use 2 exclamations marks in a sentence… clearly I would have failed many tests in the UK). And hey! They should take Shakespeare off the curriculum – Alas poor Yorick! Your demise cannot be immortalised with an exclamatory sentence that does not begin with a ‘what’ or ‘how’ – but how you died is irrelevant here – it is the fact of your death that is so poignant! And Shakespeare even made up spelling…! (Surely only a writer could begin a new sentence with ‘And’….:-)


  2. juliecroundblog May 18, 2016 at 5:25 am

    I could go on for ever about this subject. I don’t remember ever being taught detailed grammar in Junior school and by the time I took A level English I had absorbed all I needed and couldn’t tell you about subjective clauses or all that other stuff. I think pupils who studied foreign languages knew more but that was aged 11+. The politicians don’t seem to be aware of the needs of less able children in the public sector. It makes you wish we could go back to streaming! ( Only one exclamation mark at a time and, in England, we don’t use a comma when there is ‘and.’)
    Now you know I’m back!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alexander M Zoltai May 18, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Welcome back, once again; and, I fully understand what you say since I’m a firm believer that enough of the “proper” kind of reading of fiction (or, even some non-fiction) will teach anyone what works :-)


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