Manuscript Mark-Up: Are YOU a billboard punctuator?

A guest-post by Suzy Manuscript Marker

A warm welcome to the first edition of Manuscript Mark-Up.

I hope we’ll have all sorts of fun together, and talk about the stuff of writing without getting our shorts in a knot. This should be a relaxing experience. (Listen to this as you read along!)

Today I’d like to discuss an editorial phenomenon I call billboard“billboard punctuation”that is, the incorrectly applied punctuation used mostly by novice writers who believe these props will enhance words, phrases or messages in their work.

Unfortunately, the reverse is often true, causing (at best) momentary confusion with readers and (at worst) an eventual loss of the author’s credibility as a writer, and potentially as a subject matter expert.

Punctuation creates a road-map for your dear readers, and you want to carry them along the path gently and without distraction from your all-important message. Good writing is an art and a science. So how can you reduce or eliminate billboard punctuation from your writing?

Here are four suggestions to consider:

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It’s not me, it’s you: Shepherdian logic

A few years ago, Internet was snarking at novelist Lynn Shepherd as her featured Huffington Post blog titled, “If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It” masw the rounds. I wrote this in reaction.

The gist of her argument is this:

“…this is my plea to JK Rowling. Remember what it was like when The Cuckoo’s Calling had only sold a few boxes and think about those of us who are stuck there, because we can’t wave a wand and turn our books into overnight bestsellers merely by saying the magic word… But it’s time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.”

Everyone loves a good underdog story, right? Imagine how much better they’d be if there were no top dogs! The pool of underdogs would shrink as each competitor succeeded and then left the arena – everyone would be given the chance to win! Gold medals and awards for everyone because LIFE IS PERFECT & FAIR, & PERFECTLY FAIR!

*sigh*

I gnash my teeth as I imagine how dull, and freakin’ AWFUL the literary landscape would be if prolific writers like Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, and William Shakespeare put away their typewriters (and quills) after one successful book to make room for works like this.

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