Writing and Punctuation

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The assignment that follows has been written by, and is entirely the work of,

Ana Maria Dumitrana

What is your view of the value of punctuation in modern written communication?

Punctuation is important. Its correct use is as important as grammar, good wording and style. As stated by Peck and Coyle[1], punctuation is an essential part of the signalling system of language and is central to effective communication. However, a lot of people make an awful mess of punctuation. Correct punctuation will help people to say exactly what they want to say. It will do this because it is concerned with making the meaning of the message clearer by signalling the relationship between words or ideas and also with marking out the boundaries of meaning.[2] The further bonus is that good punctuation will help create a positive impression of careful and thoughtful work.

Punctuation, like the spelling, of the English language has been subject to change in the course of centuries. As exemplified by G.V. Carey, one has only to observe the punctuation of the Bible in order to become aware of the changes that have occurred in time.[3] There would seem to be no reason why punctuation should not become, at least to some extent, standardized by time and usage, as spelling has been.

However, as argued by Lynne Truss[4], it seems that punctuation is currently misused to such an extent that it is in danger of falling into disuse. Its value has decreased to such an extent that some define it as being governed two-thirds by rule and one-third by personal taste.[5] Lederer and Shore[6] argue that this has happened because its rules are seemingly arbitrary, it 's boring and no one knows how to do it.

It seems that some people ignore the value of punctuation to such an extent that they have now started campaigning against using certain characters. For example, in an article bluntly titled "Axing the Apostrophe"[7], Adrian Room argues



References: Room, A ‘Axing the Apostrophe’ (English Journal, 1989) Quotes and information available at http://grammar.about.com/b/2007/05/31/the-campaign-to-abolish-the-apostrophe.htm ----------------------- [1] Peck, J and Coyle, M in ‘The student’s guide to writing: grammar, punctuation and spelling’ (second edition, Palgrave Macmillan 2005) at page 19. [4] Truss, L in ‘Cutting a Dash (Eats, Shoots & Leaves) (BBC WW, 2 July 2010) [5] Idem (n3)

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