Punctuation

Recurring debates on important poetry topics.
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Mal McLean
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Punctuation

Post by Mal McLean » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:17 am

Having put the finishing touches to my Tamworth entry I decided to double check my usage of quotation marks. As usual, in these matters of punctuation, I turned to The Penguin Guide to Punctuation authored by the late great linguist R L (Larry) Trask.

While I was fairly certain I was correct in my usage of quotation marks and peripheral punctuation I am now absolutely certain that I have little or no idea at all. British usage, American usage, Australian usage, the logical view and the conventional view must all be considered and on top of that pile comes the 'publishers' view. Trask himself much preferred the logical view.

Punctuation is a tough master for both the poet and the judge and failure in somebodies eyes is almost certain.

Perhaps it is time that we thought about a general guide for poets and judges?

Mal the Confused
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Maureen K Clifford
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:26 am

The line of thought with some poets now seems to be that you don't need punctuation at all - I find this a lot with the younger ones especially and it drives me nuts - it was particularly noticeable when I started receiving some of the prize winning work from the kids who took place in our local Ippie competition. More than half had no punctuation at all and yet were prizewinning entries - whether a comment was made by the judges regarding this or not I have no idea.

To my way of thinking better some than none, even if it is just a comma where you want the reader to pause, a full stop and a question mark if required. They are basics and shouldn't be too hard for even the dumbest person to get their head around. Do they even teach punctuation at school these days??? No way would I have allowed kids if I were a teacher to have submitted these works without the basics at least.
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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:52 am

Many - if not most - of the teachers don't have a great handle on punctuation either these days, Maureen. Grammar, spelling, punctuation are all much less important nowadays. It is hard for old fossils like us to come to terms with, but no doubt there are trade-offs that make it all worthwhile. Whole subjects are being taught nowadays that didn't even exist when I was at school! "Visual literacy" has come to the fore, too, with films and TV now being regarded as just as important as books. Perhaps they will be more important soon. Perhaps they already are!
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Vic Jefferies
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Vic Jefferies » Mon Nov 25, 2013 1:33 pm

Sadly Stephen you are correct. The teachers of today do not have a great grasp of grammar, punctuation or spelling.
How we arrived at this low point I do not know (well, actually I do know, but that is a story for another day.)
Despite what the young may think, or in fact be taught, punctuation, spelling and grammar are still as important as ever they were because they ensure clarity and accuracy. They also help to demonstrate the writer's ability to think and to express his or her thoughts.

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Re: Punctuation

Post by Terry » Mon Nov 25, 2013 2:11 pm

G/day Mal,
I reckon that's a good idea, at least in theory we'd all be marching to the same beat of the drum.

I suspect quite a few of us consider punctuation as a bit of a mystery,
but entering competitions has certainly improved my knowledge of the basics considerably.

The one problem I see is that no matter what you do, in some cases it will still come down to interpretation.

Terry

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Mal McLean
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Mal McLean » Mon Nov 25, 2013 2:30 pm

Always Terry, always. It would be nice however to have some sort of common ground.


Something like.......Judges and poets should consider the use of...xyz...as being common usage......

Or perhaps, one of our mages could write an essay on common punctuation usage which could be a guide.

Beats me. I just posted my entry for Tamworth so what will be will be. I asked for a critique so that may provide an insight into the judges views, or not.

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Robyn
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Robyn » Mon Nov 25, 2013 2:52 pm

I've also consulted various oracles, and went from confident to confused very quickly. I think the trick is to pick a style and be consistent. You can't hope to please everyone, so don't try!
Robyn Sykes, the Binalong Bard.

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Robyn
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Robyn » Mon Nov 25, 2013 2:54 pm

PS Good luck with the Tamworth entry. I love your Henry poem (tried to leave a message on the right thread but the page won't display for me).
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Peely
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Peely » Mon Nov 25, 2013 4:18 pm

I guess that one of the problems of trying to adopt some sort of 'universal system of punctuation' for poets is that we haven't all been taught to apply punctuation in the same way. Old habits die hard, as they say. I know for certain that what I have been taught is very different to many people who were schooled at an earlier time and for that matter, I can see differences in what people who have been schooled more recently have been taught too. 'Style' is one of those things that is constantly evolving. For example, a simple sentence like this one would be punctuated differently in the time before I was educated:

"I am going to do some shopping today, I'm not sure what I will do tomorrow."

From what I was taught, it is OK to separate those two related clauses with a comma. For some people that may have been educated at an earlier time, they might prefer to use a semi-colon since that might go with what they have been taught. Regardless of whether you choose to put a comma or a semi-colon in the middle, it is clear that the sentence doesn't change in meaning in this case.

Changing the syntax (order of words), simple comma use would make the same sentence very hard to read:

"Today, I am going to do some shopping, tomorrow, I'm not sure what I will do."

In this case, the middle comma would need to be changed to either a semi-colon or a dash to keep the original meaning clear. It could be just as easily changed to two separate sentences. The syntax in the first example is much better as the words are applied more directly. The simpler that you can make your sentences, the more easily they'll be understood.

Compared to many other people my age, I feel that I have been relatively lucky as far as learning spelling, punctuation and grammar goes - there are plenty of others that have fared less well.
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Mal McLean
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Mal McLean » Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:02 pm

Peely wrote:"I am going to do some shopping today, I'm not sure what I will do tomorrow."

That's fine as far as I am aware Peely. The use of a comma in this case is called a listing comma. You are correct to say that a semi colon could be used because the second part is a complete sentence. So both approaches are correct. Now, someone will tell me I'm wrong and have a perfectly legitimate argument for doing so. :shock: :lol:

Mal
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