Punctuation Addiction

I have become addicted to using semicolons. I’m not sure why; I guess it’s because they’re convenient, and they help you avoid writing all those short, choppy sentences that can be born if you only use periods. A few years ago, I was addicted to using em-dashes. I don’t know what made me kick that addiction. I think I just got tired of seeing all those dashes everywhere, so I unconsciously made myself stop.

I know some people who can’t stand certain punctuation marks. My dad hates exclamation points. He thinks they should only be used only if you really, really do have something exciting to say. I have to agree with that, though I use exclamation points a lot, mostly with the word “thanks.” To me, saying “Thanks.” with a period could come off as sarcastic or showing that you’re not really grateful, so instead, I’ll say “thanks!” with an exclamation point… like in real life, you’d say “thanks” with a smile. But it’s a choice of personal preference, like so many editing matters. And if you’re writing or reading a children’s book, you’re more likely to see or use a multitude of question marks and exclamation points than you would while looking through an adult or YA book.

Punctuation is a tough concept to fully grasp. There are many who do not know what a semicolon is or how to use it correctly, and there’s no problem with that. A semicolon is a punctuation mark you can go without, but to me, it’s more convenient than using another type of punctuation. Editors will tell you to use exclamation marks and question marks sparingly because if you have a lot of them on the page, it can look like you don’t know what you’re talking about and it would be hard to take your writing seriously. It’s the same if you use too many semicolons or too many em-dashes. You might come off as pompous or trying too hard to be taken seriously when what you’re really doing is hindering your chances of being taken seriously.

Which punctuation marks do you use all the time? Which ones can you not stand?

16 thoughts on “Punctuation Addiction

  1. When an author uses an ellipsis (…) it should be because somebody trailed off, not because they abruptly stopped or were cut off. By far the most common case of punctuation abuse I can think of.

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  2. Short and punchy is good sometimes. Really. It is.

    I’m an ellipsis addict… can’t help myself.. I like the mental pause. I guess I really should use the em-dash… but I don’t. 😉

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  3. I use em-dashes a lot. They, like you with semicolons, seem so much more convenient. They also provide effect to writing. (And I love how your first line was ‘I have become addicted to using semicolons’ and then you used one in the next sentence. Simple but clever.) 🙂

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  4. I used to resist semicolons (resorting to the infamous comma splice instead) but a friend staged an intervention and now I’m better. In dialog, I use them only for characters who would know how to use them in life. I think(hope) this gives readers a clue about how different characters speak.

    I use dashes (en-dashes, not em-dashes, but that’s a different story) quite often in dialog, because it’s a good way to show how people interrupt themselves. I also have some characters who speak very precisely and almost never interrupt themselves, so I don’t need a lot of dashes for them.

    And I use the serial comma, but I’m cool with those who don’t. 🙂

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  5. I love ellipses and em-dashes. I don’t really like using exclamation marks, but I seem to end up using them all the time anyway! See?!!! I just used like four!!! Seven!!! OH GOD!!!

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  6. It depends on the context. I use it in when i need to address some important aspects or if I need to be sarcastic. Well… yeah it is kind of way to express what you mean when you speak in person through writing.. good post!

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  7. I use semi-colons sparingly. I rely on em dashes, but I’ve been told it’s sometimes too much. But I’m willing to do either instead of comma-splicing two complete sentences.

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  8. I overuse punctuation marks in blog writing . . . but not when writing fiction. That’s because I view my blog as a more casual communication.

    And I agree with you about “thanks!” vs. “thanks.” The first sounds enthusiastic. The second makes me wonder if the speaker is being sarcastic. 😀

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