Punctuation is the breath of writing,
I used to tell them.
It signals the pause and inhale between your words,
The lilt of the silent voice that will ring with your stories through their heads.
Again and again I would try to explain
This here, not there –
Without that, when would you come up for air?
You’ll lose all meaning
It won’t make sense
How can they appreciate your work unless
You learn to make it
Within all these rules?
The same mistakes
It’s only when I take off that hat
And pick up my own pen
That I remember
And that there is a certain
In making them
What you mean.
Writing has a lot of rules. Some are simple. Some are confusing. Some are helpful. Some are restrictive. Some you are taught in school. Some you discover as you step out into the world as a young adult, maybe thinking (naively) that school has taught you all the rules you need to know. Some you forget and end up relearning. Some seem to be unspoken, not part of the grammatical canon (if there is such a thing) but nevertheless there – and often the kind that will get you lambasted on Twitter if you dare to break them publicly.
I am, generally speaking, a rule follower. Always have been. Probably always will be. But I am learning (perhaps a little late, some might say) that it’s not good to follow all the rules all of the time. Some rules are arbitrary. Some are harmful. And all have been invented at some point, by some person with power. And sometimes, we have to bend them, break them, work around or outside them. Imagine how much humanity would have lost out on if no-one had ever challenged the rules.
In writing, there are a lot of rules. But there are no absolute truths. And the words are ours, to do with as we wish.
Go gently, friends, and use your power wisely.