Once More With Punctuation

March 7th, 2006 · 3 Comments
by Booksquare

At some point in our history, such notions as good punctuation and proper grammar emerged. One suspects, if one has spent some time learning the English language, that there were equal rations of randomness and sadism in the development of sentence structure and rules. Apparently clarity of communication could only be achieved via the most circuitous route.

It is noted that some writers, well-known ones at that, didn’t follow rules that lead to neatly organized dots and dashes and curlicues. Or maybe they did, but in the end, it didn’t matter much because even in the days of Shakespeare, the poor writer had no control over his final product.

The first published editions of Shakespeare’s work make Smash Hits look positively Augustan. The punctuation is wildly random; colons reappear with a hammering repetition and are often preferred to full stops; commas cluster together in short bursts; parentheses and dashes wander around the page looking for a home. Frequently, any attempt at punctuation disappears altogether.

Now, much of this is down to the printers, since proofing and subediting were still pretty much at the caveman stage. “What shall we do with all these words then?” they would ask. “I don’t know, squeeze them into the bottom of the page,” they’d be told.

File Under: Square Pegs

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