Poetry & Punctuation

16 Jul

I’ve already blogged about how punctuation is a tool to be used, not to be feared or avoided. What I wanted to talk about here briefly is my technique for getting punctuation right in poetry.

I’m working on my dragon story, and it’s come out in rhyme with a poetical form. Whether or not children’s stories are classed as poetry if they have ‘an early return to the margin’ (a Bryan Walpert-ism there) is something you could think about. I don’t have an answer, but if you’re using this technique you end up with the same types of problems with punctuation.

My tendency is to want to use some kind of punctuation mark at the end of every line. On top of that, if auto-correct is on, I end up with a capital letter at the start of every line (which I do not like, and I just told Scrivener to stop doing it).

The best way I’ve found to get your punctuation right is to take out all the line breaks, turning your work into prose, which lets you look at your punctuation more objectively. Now, if you’ve agonised over where each line ends you’ll want to back-up or print a copy before you attack the punctuation so you have something to refer back to. Once you’ve got the punctuation accurate then you can slap back in your line-breaks and be confident the punctuation makes sense despite the early return to the margin.

The trick is to let your punctuation exist despite the poetical features, not because of them. If punctuation is used right it’s invisible. You may find you use far less of it too, as you may not really need a comma at the end of every line.

And do your readers a favour, and follow the capitalisation rules. I find a capital letter at the start of every line very distracting.

Keep Smiling, and Writing 😀

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Posted by on 16/07/2012 in Writing


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