22 January 2014

Exemplary punctuation

Under the heading The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature, blogger Kathryn Schulz lists quotes featuring exemplary punctuation by five leading authors.

It would be nice to have some examples from technical journalism or translation. If anyone reading this has any, please feel free to contribute or comment.

Here's one modest example. The French expression plus ou moins has, perhaps surprisingly, a wider range of meaning than the corresponding more or less in English. Some of the equivalents listed in the Collins-Roberts French-English dictionary include: not very, just about, vaguely, and with varying degrees of. In some contexts, one option is to use more – or less –. The punctuation makes all the difference.


  1. I agree “good writing involves obsessing over punctuation marks.” When I was at school I was obsessed with Charles Lamb’s use of the dash and certainly overused it myself as a result.
    Not long after, I made the acquaintance of Bernard Shaw, and especially his prefaces. Paragons of clear writing. And one of his characteristics is the economy of his punctuation. So much so that I would say one of the most useful English punctuation marks is NO punctuation mark. Minimal punctuation forces one to rely more on the INTERNAL LOGIC AND COHERENCE of the ideas being expressed. I still advise foreign students to read Shaw if they want to write AND THINK in clear English.

  2. translatology: That's an excellent point.


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