We all have strange relationships with punctuation — do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without? Tell us all about your punctuation quirks!
Authors leave marks in their text to help us follow his/her line of thinking. I take it for granted, he/she knows where the semicolons belong. They say one must know the rules before one is allowed to break them. That may be true, but where do these broken rules leave the reader? I mean, not everyone holds a degree in English.
Case in point: Carmac McCarthy.
His omission of quotation marks carries this rule breaking a bit far, in my opinion. Even though I’ve read most of his work, he often leaves me wondering who said what. For the first chapter or two I do some rereading in an effort to get on board, as it were. But after awhile it no longer seems to matter, because I’m inserting the quotes for him. Is that part of his original plan? Does he not have time to wet nurse his reader?
Then there’s Jack Kerouac. The Kerouac Reader states that his first draft of On the Road was one gigantic paragraph typed on telegraph paper roll. Does that take free writing to the edge, or what?
Without a doubt, there are others who blatantly break the rules … purposely. Like that ellipse. Is that legal? I don’t know. Maybe I’m the worst offender of the lot.
Me? I’m always winging it when it comes to semicolons. Sometimes the place they fit is obvious. Most often I use periods and create a couple of jerky sentences, instead.
But commas hold the greatest mystery. Personally, I like them. For me, they are like rests in a musical score. They provide a place to catch one’s breath.
As for the exclamation point. There is one place I truly think it works. Example: When the person’s head is over the block, and the blade is about it fall, I think he is entitled to shout WAIT!.