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! Punctuation

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P. U. P. by Krahn

Punctuation seems to be the last frontier in the study of the writing process. Many people, sometimes even teachers of writing, give punctuation short shrift. Handbooks of writing are prone to consider punctuation as about as important as an oil change and list it under "mechanics." Those who ignore punctuation or treat it with contempt may simply not understand its importance in the production of meaning in writing.

The purpose of this site is to promote the study of punctuation with a view toward understanding it better. To avoid confusion, however, the site is devoted particularly to punctuation in American English .

Past Paradigms and Silly Analogies

Over the years, writers of some books and handbooks on punctuation have attempted to understand what makes punctuation work. Unfortunately, many of them have compared punctuation to interesting but irrelevant concepts which often mislead a person seeking genuine help.  paraanal

Hot links for help

Although there is not much information available about the theory and principles of punctuation, there are some sites that will provide immediate help for answers to specific questions. The sites listed here are not necessarily being endorsed, but they may provide reasonably accurate help when you need it. Generally, there are no known sites for a theoretical discussion of punctuation. But if you need a quick answer for a particular punctuation problem, try one of the following.

This OWL is linked to by a number of colleges and universities.


The Capitol Community College site offers mostly well-reasoned advice.


NASA has an interesting site with plenty of examples.


The Chicago Manual of Style Online offers some help. The Q & A section can be browsed without charge. Search on "punctuation" or one of the marks.


Paul Robinson offers an interesting philosophy of punctuation.


A new paradigm for understanding punctuation

If you are having trouble understanding punctuation as it is presented in the usual handbooks and manuals, maybe this view of punctuation will help. paradigm

Frequently Asked Questions  FAQs

One goal of this site is to provide a forum for an on-going discussion of punctuation. Perhaps, in time, a longer list of frequently asked questions could be made available. Or explanations for pervasive punctuation problems could be provided. For example, the problem of its and it's might be a candidate for a FAQ.. One nomination might be the problems sown by confused writers who use the apostrophe with ordinary plurals. The following curiosity, for example, seems to be spreading: here are the do's and dont's or sometimes do's and don'ts. Some editors, apparently, are more interested in appearance than accuracy. Oddly enough, if you add all the required apostrophes and have to frame it with single quotation marks, it just might look like it is raining: 'do's and don't's'

Join the Mailing List

A mailing list devoted to punctuation has been in existence since May of 1996. People who are interested in a collaborative discussion of punctuation are encouraged to subscribe and participate. To join the list, go to http://interversity.org/node/81 and locate punct-l and subscribe.

Comments and Suggestions

If you have comments or suggestions, please send email to krahn@[this domain].  For example,  if you discover a site that discusses punctuation in some interesting way or have some suggestions for the FAQ, we'd  like to know about it. 


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