Excessive and misused punctuation

I’ve got a cousin who doesn’t understand punctuation. She writes blog posts on marketing and business related stuff and fills her sentences with misused semicolons, ellipsis that are not ellipsis at all, and question marks after exclamation marks as if to say: “This; is a question……. no it’s not, yes it is?!!?

I’ve got a sister who doesn’t understand what a full stop is for. She’ll use a comma instead of a period, joining two unconnected thoughts together in ways that make me scratch my head. Sometimes she leaves out the end-of-sentence punctuation entirely, leaving a paragraph hanging off a cliff without any kind of protective barrier to keep it from falling.

Overuse and misuse of punctuation is a problem that plagues a certain type of writer. If reading Twilight fan-fiction is your guilty pleasure, you’ll have encountered it on many occasions. Usually, this sort of carelessness is caught and tidied up by an editor, but in the self-publishing world we now live in, where many see editor as an ugly word, it’s creeping into published fiction.

Which brings me to the Suspect Punctuation checker in SmartEdit. This neat little piece of functionality is still in its infancy, and will probably be expanded upon over the coming year. As it stands, it draws your attention to crazy punctuation such as ?!!??. It highlights all use of exclamation marks, and as usual, gives you a quick sentence fragment to eyeball so you can check if you really do need to shout out loud at every turn.

I’m considering expanding the Suspect Punctuation checker to highlight all usage of a host of commonly misused punctuation marks — even the semicolon. If you know how to use a semicolon, it won’t be much use to you. Unless you’re John Irving, in which case seeing all those semicolons in one place might make you reconsider when it comes to penning that next novel. There was a reason I had such difficulty getting through those early chapters of A Widow For One Year.

How often you do things is a question that SmartEdit likes to answer for a host of writing related questions. It’s not easy to spot the forest for the trees when you’re editing your own work, which is why it can be useful to see a detailed analysis of just what you’ve been getting up to on those dark evenings in front of your monitor, tapping away into Word or Scrivener.

31 Mar 2014