Useless Past Paradigms for Punctuation
the voice how we might say something (suprasegmentals)
rhetoric how we intend it to be meant (poetic license)
convention we do it this way because we have done it this way
syntax it must be based on grammar, somehow
Some reporters have tried to sort out punctuation marks in abstract categories according to what they seem to be to be doing in the context of the discourse: separating, enclosing, terminating, showing omissions, etc.
Others sort them according to their visual appearance (birds of a feather): ,,,!!!"""((([[[---
Yet others sort them out in relation to grammatical categories: parentheticals, dependent clauses, coordinated units, etc.
Silly Analogies Abound
The following have been culled from a variety of books that were supposedly trying to deal with punctuation as a serious topic.
romantic/musical "A comma is a delicate kink in time, a pause within a sentence, a chance to catch your breath. A curvaceous acrobat, it capers over the page."
|"As in Musick an Art allied to Grammar, the proportion is between a Quaver and a Crotchet, a Crochet and a Minim, a Minim and a Semibreve."|
|mystico/powerful "Punctuation is used in writing as gestures, pauses, and changes of voice are used in speakingto add force or to reveal the precise relationship of thoughts. In ordinary writing three fourths of your problems will concern the comma."|
|culinary "Punctuation captures much of the rhythm of speech as well as visually dividing the printed or written page into digestible segments."|
|speech echo "The English writing system uses punctuation marks to separate groups or words for meaning and emphasis: to convey an idea of the variations of pitch, volume, pauses, and intonations of speech."|
|do-your-own-thing "Punctuation, like usage, is an element of style, and the skillful writer can put much meaning into the placement of a comma."|
|etiquette "Remember that, while punctuation is, to some extent a matter of individual taste and judgment, there are certain fixed rules which every person of fair education is expected to observe."|
|ethics "In minor details of punctuation there is room for individual preference, but in essential principles all trustworthy writers agree."|
|info highway "Punctuation marks are the traffic signals of writing. Without punctuation, many a written passage would become as chaotic as a large city without traffic lights."|
|"Punctuation marks guide us in reading. They tell us when to slow down and when to stop and sometimes indicate the nature of the road ahead."|
|seeing is believing "The traditional purpose of punctuation is to symbolize by means of visual signs the patterns heard in speech. . . . Its most important purpose is to make the grammar graphic."|
|good business "Method is the very hinge of business: and there is no method in business correspondence without proper punctuation."|
|agriculture "Punctuation is organically related to the sense of a sentence, to sentence flow, as it has been called."|
|architecture "To punctuate a sentence right is a part of building it right, for the wrong punctuation will tell the reader, even if the words do not, that the sentence was built wrong."|