Sep 14

Punctuation (the only way?)

Punctuation (the only way?)

Session 30
NB. Ideally you need a copy of ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynne Truss, or examples of passages where a change in punctuation completely changes the meaning, which you may find on the internet.

We have discussed punctuation before and looked at examples of how very different the meaning of a passage can be if the punctuation is altered.

There seems to be a ‘fashion’ amongst some authors, to write with minimal punctuation, particularly leaving out speech marks. I cannot be the only one who finds this irritating. The punctuation marks are not for decoration; they have a function and therefore their absence must make a text more difficult to read and understand!


Write out the following with what you consider to be the best punctuation:

Sara I dont want to go why not I cannot see what the problem is as mum says it is almost a tradition that is the problem some things are fun because they are familiar and some things just become boring with repetition I am not going on the picnic mum I have told Sara I dont want to go and I am going somewhere else with Jeff I am not sure where yet

One version: (There could well be others).

‘Sara, I don’t want to go.’
‘Why not? I can’t see what the problem is. As mum says, it ‘s almost a tradition’.
‘That ‘s the problem. Some things are fun because they’re familiar and some things just become boring with repetition.’
‘I am not going to the picnic, Mum. I have told Sara and I am going somewhere else.’
‘With Jeff?’
‘I am not sure where, yet.’

Compare and discuss.

Task 2

Write a short passage about going on a walk. It might be setting off from home and just walking to the shops or the local park. It could be a walk to a specific appointment or meeting. It might be a walk in the country or along a cliff path. It may be about one person, or two or three, and it may be written in first or third person. It may be largely descriptive but it might contain dialogue or someone’s thoughts.
It should be between 100 and 150 words maximum and you should leave out all punctuation, with the exception of capital letters.

You are going to pass your work to someone else and you are all going to work on another member of the group’s passage for the next ten minutes
Work in groups of three if possible or simply pass to your left, if the whole group is less than six.
ON A SEPARATE SHEET OR NOTEBOOK, copy the passage you have been given and punctuate it as you think it needs to be punctuated.

After ten minutes, stop and pass the original passage, that you have been working on, to the next person. On another clean page, punctuate the new passage that you have been given.

Pass the original passage, and the two punctuated versions, back to each original author.
Look carefully at what the other members of the group have done and see if either or both have captured your meaning well.

Share and discuss, in the groups of three, and/or as a whole group.
Just for fun, have a go at punctuating the passage on the handout:
Larry where Joe had had had had had had had had had had had the teachers approval.
(See below for solution).

If time share a few examples of famous ‘re-punctuations’ which you can find on the internet or, if available, in ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynne Truss ( eg pages 11-13)



Solution: Larry, where Joe had had ‘had’, had had ‘had had’. ‘Had had’ had had the teacher’s approval.

(Category:Group Session) Tags: Language,Writing Prose,Revising,Appropriate Language

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  1. […] might prefer to take a session but alter it to suit your group. In a recent session I started with Session 30. Punctuation (the only way?) but, because of the size of the group we did not […]

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