Advanced Rules for Punctuation in Creative Writing

ExclamationThere are lots of punctuation guides out there, but in creative writing there is more than just correct grammar at stake. Your tone as a writer, the voice you give your characters, the feel that readers get when they open your novel can be dramatically altered depending on how you use punctuation.

I’m entering the advanced editing section of my novel, The Automaton of Miss Ada Stirling (currently being released as a JukePop serial if you want to check it out!). One thing that I noticed when doing a stream-lining run-through yesterday was how colorful my punctuation gets. I use M dashes—(and brackets) and ellipses points . . . a lot. Maybe too much. But at the same time, I can think of other books I’ve read that were drowning in commas and semicolons, bogged down in a monotonous repetition of the most blasé punctuation possible.

Photo by Bev Lloyd-Roberts LRPS

Punctuation is like spice. A little can work wonders to flavor your book, but too much can overwhelm the senses. I advise the use of punctuation in creative ways. Illustrate your point! Just because you shouldn’t use more than one at a time (?!?!?!?!) doesn’t mean you should ban exclamation points and question marks altogether. Use them sparingly, and you will give them more weight. Add snappiness to your narration with the use of M dashes instead of commas—and watch how the tone becomes more dramatic and intense in the meanwhile. Play around! Learn how to make punctuation work for you instead of sitting on the page marking phrases, clauses and sentences. The perfect balance can breath new life into your writing!

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