How do you attempt to capture a reader’s attention? Do you pull out your arsenal of punctuation points?
Do you go overboard?
Instead of emphasizing important matters with carefully chosen words, today’s writers commonly use excessive, incorrect punctuation. Instead of crafting straightforward statements that are worth recalling, misguided communicators clutter their pages and distract their readers with errors. As a result, both the message and the messenger lose value.
To make your point as a professional, consider how the following two guidelines can strengthen your written communications:
1. Exclamation Points & Question Marks
The purpose of an exclamation point is to make an emphatic statement. A question mark indicates a desire or need for an answer. Consider the response you want to elicit and then choose one punctuation mark to accomplish your objective.
INCORRECT: What is the deadline???
What is the deadline!!!
What is the deadline?!?
The multiple punctuation marks convey that someone is having a temper tantrum.
CORRECT: What is the deadline?
The question prompts the reader to answer.
The deadline is missing!
The statement draws attention to the missing element.
A clear question or emphatic statement punctuated properly not only stands on its own, but it also conveys professionalism.
An ellipsis, written as three dots, indicates that content has been omitted, as when the writer quotes a portion of spoken or written material from an original source. In informal communications, the punctuation also prompts the reader to pause with the author and ponder what might come next. For our discussion about adding emphasis, we’ll focus on the pause.
INCORRECT: I’ve considered your proposal…..my concerns regarding deadlines still exist…..
More dots do not accentuate the pause; they simply show that the writer has strayed from the correct rules of punctuation.
ACCEPTIBLE: I’ve considered your proposal … my concerns regarding deadlines still exist ….
Note that one space separates the ellipsis from the content that precedes and follows the punctuation.
END OF SENTENCE: Add a fourth dot for your period when the ellipsis appears at the end of a sentence.
HINT: To ensure that you type it correctly, locate the ellipsis in your menu of symbols and insert it.
BETTER: I’ve considered your proposal; my concerns regarding deadlines still exist ….
Two ellipses in one sentence seem overdone, so stick with one.
IDEAL: I’ve considered your proposal; my concerns regarding deadlines still exist. They are as follows:
More often than not, completing the thought does the job more effectively than making the reader hang on your words.
If you choose to use ellipses in your writing, use them correctly and sparingly.
Punctuation tools, when used properly, sharpen your written communications. When used improperly, they make a mess of your messages.
What are your punctuation peeves or questions?
Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady