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Punctuation...?: A useful guide for academic writing

Yateendra Joshi | Oct 6, 2015 | 3,235 views
A guide to punctuation

Punctuation marks make a handy toolbox for writers. Just as there are plenty of DIY guides to help you choose the right tool and use it properly, there are dozens of books on punctuation. However, most of them require a firm grasp of grammar and range from the racy (Eats, Shoots & Leaves1) through the dry (The Penguin Guide to Punctuation2) to the highly specialized (The Best Punctuation, period3) [1–3]. I was therefore delighted to see Punctuation . . ?, a book particularly suited to the readers of Editage Insights. In 36 short pages, the book gives straightforward advice on punctuation marks from the apostrophe to the semicolon, arranged alphabetically by the name of each mark and enlivened by cartoons.

That books show their authors’ perspective is particularly true of books on punctuation. Eats, Shoots & Leaves is racy because Lynne Truss is a broadcaster; the Penguin Guide is dry because Trask is an academic; and The Best Punctuation is specialized because June Casagrande is a professional copy editor. This explains why the book under review is particularly user-friendly—Thomas Bohm specializes in user design and typesetting.

Because a good grasp of grammar helps you in using punctuation marks effectively, Punctuation . . ? explains any grammatical terms it uses – ‘a noun is a word used as the name of a person, place or thing’ for example – and the text itself is simple, which is helpful to those for whom English is not the first language. Several examples are given for each mark, an approach that works better than detailed explanations. The book was in fact a runner-up in the ‘Environmental’ category in the British Book Design and Production Awards competition, 2012.

In short, if you wish to learn just enough about punctuation – in 3000 words and less than an hour – so that you can use punctuation marks correctly and effectively in everyday writing, Punctuation . . ? is the book for you.

[1] Truss L. 2003. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation. London: Profile Books. 209 pp.

[2] Trask R L. 1997. The Penguin Guide to Punctuation. London: Penguin Books. 162 pp.

[3] Casagrande J. 2014. The Best Punctuation Book, period: a comprehensive guide for every writer, editor, student, and businessperson. New York: Ten Speed Press. 249 pp.

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