Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Randomness of CAPITALIZATION, ellipsis, and crazy punctuation

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted a blog, and for that I apologize. Life has taken crazy turns, and while it’s taken us a long time, we’re expecting our first child-a daughter- any day now. That being said, onto the topic at hand.

As an editor, we see all types of literary faux pas’, so it’s easy as an editor to pick out the most horrible offenders of the bunch.  Okay, horrible is a strong word to use. But, there are moments when we want just want to play whack-a-mole to a writer’s fingertips before they finish typing their offending sentence.  I’m joking, well mostly, but here are the three (at least for the last two reading periods) common offenders that we wanted to address.

1.       Double Punctuation!?!? When I see a series of knitted exclamation points and question marks, I cringe. I know the intended effect: to create a sense of questionable shock and awe. The problem is, it doesn’t work. Not grammatically, not structurally.  It’s not the bane of the bad writer-far from it-but offenses like this might make the difference between getting published or passed up. Instead of telling the audience with a series of repetitive punctuation marks, SHOW us. Describe it. Context should tell us everything. Use lots of detail and put us in that place and time.

2.       Ellipsis…Meant to be used for a long pause with a double meaning…If your character is rambling on in thought and trails off…if you’re quoting from a passage, and you leave a beginning, middle, or end part of the quote off, it’s okay to use the three little dots (and only three….five, seven, or more are not needed here.) For example, Metallica’s album, “…and Justice for All.” The ellipsis preceding the album title are meant to represent the missing parts of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Again, not a total literary blasphemy, but still offensive and it makes for a very difficult read.

3.       The random CAPITALIZED word. I have nothing positive to SAY about randomly placing words and putting one or TWO of them in capital letters. I’m not talking about words or phrases meant to show emphasis, I’m simply stating just A random couple of words IN a paragraph that are  CAPITALIZED. It’s bad writing. There are ways to emphasize  specific words to show meaning, show impact. A scattering of capitalized words throws off the reader, and just makes for bad copy.

So next time your fingers are lingering over the period, wanting to press them several times in succession, or you REALLY, REALLY, want to show a point on a particular subject because you want the reader to feel, remember the simple rules from above!!!!???

 We now conclude this literary sarcasm and updates and return you to your regularly scheduled program…

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