What punctuation "tricks" do you have in your literary arsenal and how do you use them?

1 Answer

Some are listed below. Keep in mind that by "tricks" I've taken it to mean "non-standard grammar" and so while I can write what I like (I have no teachers grading me), English teachers may take a dim view on their use.


Punctuation tricks? I'm going to answer this as an opinion piece and not as a strict grammatical exercise!

  • I like to use hyphens - probably too much (like I did just now). I find that it helps to set things off in a way that I just can't achieve with a period, a semicolon, or a parenthetical.

  • Periods can be fun to use when they show up where they are unexpected. It gives a stuttering, almost hammering effect to writing. One example that seems to show up in texting a lot is the use of "Oh. My. God." Compare that to "OMG" - which just flows off the tongue. The periods make the reader take notice of each and every beat in each word.

  • I like "asides" - places where someone who is saying one thing to someone can silently muse on the topic at hand. For instance, I could say: How did I find spirituality? Well... it kinda found me! (But how was it that it found me? And what was it that found me? And if I was found, was I lost in the first place???)

  • And that example brings up a couple more things - one being my love of "..." - it gives a pause, a quiet interlude of contemplation. It allows the reader to see that as a writer/narrator, there is a bit of contemplation occurring. See the above example to see the effect - that pause between "Well" and "it kinda found me".

  • Another thing I like to do is use multiple question and exclamation marks to highlight I've reached the end of a musing. Again, in that last example (which is now two tabs up), the last musing ends with three question marks - it's the last musing and, in a sense, if there were a punchline or summing up point, this highlights it.

Always keep in mind that what I've just listed doesn't always comply with standard grammatical rules - it's the occasional misuse of those rules that force a reader out of themselves for just a second, to take notice of a certain bit that as a writer I'm trying to highlight. But often (not always, but often) English teachers take a dim view to non-standard grammar!