Emdashes, Ellipsis and Commas, oh my!

While words can be a bug-a-boo with writing, so can punctuation.

It isn’t as easy as we were taught in grade school, is it? A statement ends in a period. An exclamation ends in an exclamation point! And doesn’t a question end with a question mark?  My first novel’s rough draft was a minefield of exclamation points. I don’t think you could read through one page without tripping over one. It’s the way I talk. I’m just one big walking exclamation point (or so I’m told).  Sometimes, when it comes to writing, less is more. So if you, like me, have a fondness for that punctuation mark: STOP IT!

Sounds too simple to be true.

Then there the controversy about commas. Some people like more, some like less. “Let’s eat Grandma,” is different from “Let’s eat, Grandma.” In the first you are using economy and becoming a cannibal. In the second you are inviting someone to dinner.

As I’ve done more editing I’ve found that many people have a fondness for the emdash—just like I do. For some, perhaps a bit too much.  I think they are great but like an exclamation point and fine wine, best used in moderation. They stop the dialogue and sometimes you want that pause, but you don’t want your reader tripping over them too often.

The lovely ellipsis . . . I see it over used or not spaced correctly and I know that when it comes to formatting this can be an issue. Maybe I’m wrong but I would rather just see the space dot space dot space dot space. If it becomes a formatting issue that can be changed later to publishing house standards.

What punctuation marks do you struggle with or perhaps have a tendency to overuse?


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