To do great writing, read great writing. Here’s the great writing I’ve been reading this week:
Today is National Punctuation Day, a day to honor the fact that you know the difference between a comma and a coma, and a semi-colon from a colonoscopy. NPD was created seven years ago by Jeff Rubin, a Pinole, Calif., former newspaper reporter who says he’s written and designed 1,800 company newsletter since 1981. That’s a lot of commas and semi-colons.
Even if NPD is a just made up holiday, it’s a helpful reminder that good grammar goes a long way. Speaking as someone who almost spends as much time editing as writing, I know of what I speak. Writers who turn in properly punctuated copy make my job that much easier.
In honor of the occasion, this week’s recommended reading for writers is all about punctuation. I’ve rounded up a number of print and online grammar and punctuation resources that writers of all genres should know about:
@APStylebook – The international wire service has created a home on Twitter for its venerable style guide for news reporters. Staffers manning the account sometimes tweet about AP style questions and direct people to the service’s Website, APStylebook.com.
Eats Shoots and Leaves – The tagline of this bestseller says it all: “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.” Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, CD, audiobook and as a calendar.
National Punctuation Day – The official site of NPD founder Jeff Rubin, who in addition to working as a corporate newsletter writer is a professional speaker who visits elementary schools to teach kids about good grammar. The NPD website has an extensive list of grammar books and resources, readers’ photos of bad punctuation and suggestions for how to celebrate the day (“Take a leisurely stroll, paying close attention to store signs with incorrectly punctuated words.”)
Regret the Error – If you don’t get your punctuation right, you could wind up featured on this blog from journalist Craig Silverman, which chronicles grammar mistakes and other inaccuracies in popular English language magazines and newspapers.
The Lower Case – The Columbia Journalism Review devotes the back page of each issue to “Headlines that editors probably wish they could take back,” including some with bungled punctuation. Unfortunately you have to be a CJR subscriber to see it online.
The Most Ridiculous Newspaper Typos Ever – From The Huffington Post.
Unnecessary Quotes – Why didn’t I think of this? A “blog” devoted entirely to the “unnecessary” “quotation marks” that “people” can’t seem to “get enough of,” (see how annoying that is), and a great example of how bad grammar can be good fun.
Woe is I – The Kindle edition of Patricia T. O’Conner’s hit guide to “better English in plain English.” Of special interest is Chapter 6, “Comma Sutra: The Joy of Punctuation.”
Writing Tools – Poynter Institute’s in-house writing coach Roy Peter Clark devotes today’s edition of his excellent weekly Writing Tools column to punctuation. In Let’s Celebrate White Space, Clark gives his usual great advice. Read the entire thing, but here’s a snippet on the role proper punctuation plays in writing:
Inside the text, white space is a writer’s and a reader’s best friend. White space helps emphasize what is most important on the page or screen, provides a kind of visual index that clues in the reader to the main parts of the story, and ventilates tedious grayness, relaxing the eyes and reassuring the mind.