Commas, full stops, colons, semi-colons, hyphens and dashes are like the bones of a skeleton lying beneath the meaning of a sentence.
As a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, I have to help students at
Essex University with their writing. Last week, a very able student from brought along a close reading of an excerpt by Dickens from Sketches by Boz. It would have been a first class essay except the student had not looked closely enough at the length of Dickens’s sentences nor thought about the way those sentences were punctuated. Pakistan
On my non RLF days, I’m proof reading Zoë’s Boat before it goes to press. Looking at my own writing is somehow a much harder task than looking at someone else’s - all those punctuation marks and how they affect the rhythm of the page, not to mention the wider punctuation of the page turns in a picture book when you have to imagine the reader, a Mum or Dad, reading aloud to a child and turning those pages; quickly or slowly or deliberately holding back the page turn where there’s a cliff hanger.