Saturday, 14 December 2013

Follow the dancing dots

Once again, I have to thank Jim Murdoch for giving me the idea for this post (and believe me, when it comes to thinking up ideas for this blog, I need all the help I can get).

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about editing. To be honest, I find editing a bit of a mixed bag. Part of it is really enjoyable - the part where you get to gradually see the writing tighten up, and where you start to bring everything together to move from a disjointed bunch of ideas to a real story. But there's another aspect of editing that I have to admit I find quite painful - trying to keep up with all the little dots that dance over my manuscript.

You know the ones I'm talking about. The colons and semi-colons, and especially the commas. I have no idea where commas are supposed to go. Every time I go back to revise one of my drafts, I feel like 20% of the time is spent actually refining the story and writing, while the other 80% is spent moving commas around. And around again. And around a third time. Even just writing this blog post, I reckon I've spent half the time fiddling with commas.

I'm lucky that I have my editor. She always seems to know where commas go. She'll tell me that because this is a post-conjunctive phrase alongside a relational-subjunctive clause (or something like that), there has to be a comma between them. As for me, I just go on instinct. If I feel like a need to take a breath, I chuck a comma in. Only problem is every time I read it again, I find myself wanting to take breaths in different places.

I'm waiting for technology to catch up. I'm waiting for word processors to become so clever, they know exactly where the commas (and all the other types of dots) are supposed to go, and just stick them in as you're typing. And then I'll be able to spend less time trying to follow those pesky dancing dots, and more time working on my actual story.

Till then have a great week.

Or should that be till then, have a great week.

Oh, I give up.


  1. I think it should be: “Or should that be ‘Till then, have a great week’?” I, like you, tend to go on gut and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad approach because for every rule out there there’re always exceptions. What I hate are people who set down arbitrary rules for themselves refusing to use semicolons or punctuation marks. I don’t get that. We really don’t have that many squiggles to play with to start off with so why restrict ourselves even more? I really hate poets who don’t use any punctuation. Can’t see the sense in that at all.

    1. Now you're just confusing me. Mind you, I think the idea for more dancing dots isn't a bad one. I might mull that over.