Punctuation is not a crime

Why, suddenly, do people hate the comma? Did one go astray, leaving someone candidly exposed? Did an em-dash make someone choke on an appositive? Did an apostrophe try to possess the wrong thing?

Fear not, punctuation marks, I will defend you. You are full of character. You accentuate. You applaud! You provide context.

Where would we be without you? ‎Lost, confused, disorganized, and a bit troubled, I suspect. Let’s take a look, shall we?

“I like eating, the smell of summer rain, and my pets.”

Without the commas: “I like eating the smell of summer rain and my pets.”

I beg your pardon?

The semi-colon need not perplex; rather, it gives pause. It aids contemplation. We don’t pause enough in our rapid world. Thank you, semicolon, for reminding us to breathe.

Colons create drama and suspense: they are the orchestra leaders of the English language. When you see one, you know something big is coming next, like a crescendo of fact or a list of reasons.

And there’s the em-dash, that lively and vibrant storyteller, giving us hints and peeks, like an actor turning to the camera and winking. Some people dislike them—thinking them vain or disruptive, perhaps—but I think they’re dandy, like a conspiratorial sideways glance.

Exclamation marks have never been more popular, often used in an attempt to be heard over the din of voluminous content that saturates our existence. But even they are losing their spark due to overuse. We might as well just go back to the period.

People. Like. To. Use. Periods. Like. This. For. Emphasis. Such a method works well on occasion, particularly for irony. Periods cut to the chase and draw conclusions. They pace our words and clarify meaning.

It’s the lowly comma, sadly, that appears to be most at risk of an untimely death. I, for one, still love what it can do.

A few words about poetry

The words of ancient poets danced and droned as they spun tales of delight and dread about gods and goddesses; fight, flight and plight. Legends were borne brilliantly through metaphors, dreamscapes and visions, illuminated by wit and wonder.

Language was precious then and remains precious now, but for different reasons. In this day of short attention spans and information overload, what place has poetry?

In our glut of words, we need to find a new efficiency; an essential epiphany. Those lines that stay with you – that provide the visceral, evocative, poignant and resonant meaning to create a lasting impression – are the essential epiphanies. This is how poetry can help us cut through the clutter in an art of language that creates understanding and connection.

Here, too, less is often more. It’s not about absence, but intensity; where themes and ideas are expressed through the eloquence of essential meaning. Here are a few reminders from 100, 200 and 450 years ago…

dickinson

auden

keats

shakespeare

 

And one from me: Demarcation: A Riddle.

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Building Effective Communications

The formula for creating effective communications isn’t a big mystery. Achieving effective communications, however, takes effort. To be effective, you should aim to be affective as well. People want to hear about what matters to them and in a format that is quick (brief), easy (plain language), informative (factual) and resonant (meaningful, connective, engaging). Always keep these elements in mind when crafting content, but most importantly, get to know the nuances of your audience first.

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