Sunday, February 28, 2016

Colon Count

Of all the things to worry about, I recently spent a fair amount of time on a Sunday afternoon worrying about how many colons I had in my manuscript. I was nudged into this situation by an editor who acknowledged a personal dislike for that particular punctuation mark. I was told it interrupted the flow of the narrative. Something that is important to consider. So, I did. I considered it. I went through everything hunting out these nefarious blemishes.
The hunt didn’t take too much time thanks to the “Find…” feature under the Edit menu in Microsoft Word. (Yes, it recognized the one tiny punctuation mark of a colon.) The hard part was deciding which ones to keep and which ones really could be let go, replaced by an em dash, another selection of words, or whatnot.

I had decided before hand I was not about to banish them all. They are quite essential for making lists. Lists are useful as a concise means of describing things. Would William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, approve? I’d say yes. I believe his philosophy tended towards the concise and brief. No padding allowed. That was also the philosophy of my high school English teacher.

So, a couple of fruitful hours after I started, I had my mission accomplished.

In the future, I will take heed of what my editors suggest, but in the end I will make my own decisions. I will have to take the risk and responsibility for my actions. As I was reminded—make a decision and then be consistent.

This is from a recent Washington Post article by Ron Charles on Harper Lee.

“Great writers of the world: When you hear a Fly buzz and the Stillness in the Room is like the Stillness in the Air Between the Heaves of Storm, please contact a librarian immediately.
We’ll thank you forever.”
I see it as proof: Don’t be afraid of a few colons.

1 comment:

  1. More thoughts on punctuation with a visual presentation by Adam J. Calhoun: