I recently read a short story by a young author. I enjoyed her plot, her imagination, and her use of words. One thing I didn’t like was missing apostrophes in all her contractions. Each time I encountered a contraction sans apostrophe it took me out of her story. These reoccurring speed bumps reduced my enjoyment of her work.
I’m not sure why she did this, especially since most programs will auto-correct missing apostrophes whenever possible. Even my smartphone does that.
As a college student, it’s hard to believe she didn’t understand the use of apostrophes. Was she being sloppy? Didn’t she care? Was this a rebellious act, trying to make some point? I have no idea.
What I do know is that writing entails following certain conventions. If we want others to best understand our work, we must adhere to expected standards for sentence structure, paragraph use, upper and lower case, spelling, and, yes, punctuation.
New writers too often struggle in understanding the basic conventions of standard punctuation. Commas and quotes are common sources of confusion. While mastering the full intricacies of proper punctuation—over which there can be an occasional debate—requires effort and time, there’s no excuse for not following the basics. Writers who assume punctuation doesn’t matter are shortsighted, more likely, lazy.
As writers, we want others to understand our words and not dismiss our work. This requires we follow expected writing conventions, whether we agree with them or not. This includes proper punctuation.
What punctuation errors frustrate you? What writing conventions do you struggle with?
Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!