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Thread: the importance of punctuation or not

  1. #1
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    the importance of punctuation or not

    in poetry?!

    I personally have the tendency to write poetry naturally without punctuation.
    I seem to prefer the flow that way and also it gives the reader the choice to decide to punctuate or not mentally for themselves.


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  2. #2
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    It depends on whether the lack of punctuation is for effect, or simply due to laziness or ignorance.

    Text without punctuation, whether prose and poetry, is easier to write but harder to read. Punctuation adds nuance and clarity, and if you're going sacrifice these in punctuation, you'd better be supplying them in other ways.

    Here in the UK lots of people are now lazy about punctuation, largely because they were never taught it properly. On forums, if I come across a post without punctuation or written in text speak, I just skip it. Life's too short. If someone wants their stuff to be read, they can help me out by not leaving all the hard work to me.

  3. #3
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    I agree. I prefer the use of punctuation in poetry. I found through experience that most poetry profits from shape and meaning. IMO punctuation goes a far distance in aiding that.
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  4. #4
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    I try to use correct punctuation and spelling in either prose or poetry, because I want the reader to focus on the content of the text.

    Edit: I've been in discussions on other forums where poets will complain when other poets capitalize the first letter of the line or even put a line break at the end of the line of poetry. Both of these are extra forms of punctuation that are not used in prose. I use both, because I suspect the reader expects to see them. However, if I removed all line breaks and initial capital letters I hope what I write would pass an MS Word grammar check.
    Last edited by YesNo; 03-31-2012 at 11:34 AM.
    Don't forget the poetry contests at http://www.online-literature.com/for...s-amp-Contests

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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    I try to use correct punctuation and spelling in either prose or poetry, because I want the reader to focus on the content of the text.

    Edit: I've been in discussions on other forums where poets will complain when other poets capitalize the first letter of the line or even put a line break at the end of the line of poetry. Both of these are extra forms of punctuation that are not used in prose. I use both, because I suspect the reader expects to see them.
    Interesting... I write poetry and, although I use many poetic conventions, I don't use capital letters at the starts of lines. In a way I feel I should, because I'm a bit of a traditionalist; but when I tried it, the poems looked archaic because it's so uncommon these days.

    As for line breaks... How can you write poetry without line breaks? They are fundamental to the structure of a poem, and are also a way of adding pauses where no explicit punctuation would be appropriate. Some of the most brilliant poetic effects are due to well-placed line breaks; however, a lot of poets just apply them arbitrarily, when a line has reached the length of the line above it.

    I think the appearance of a poem on the page is very important, and it's why a lot of brilliant poems lose so much of their effect when read out loud (at least if you've never seen them written down).

    However, if I removed all line breaks and initial capital letters I hope what I write would pass an MS Word grammar check.
    I don't trust MS Word's grammar checker as far as I could throw it
    Last edited by FranzS; 03-31-2012 at 05:23 PM.

  6. #6
    If you know Thai, or even little bit of it, you know that there's no capitalization or punctuation. It's all in the context. And though that would be annoying and impractical in English (as we're so used to punctuation and capitalization) I think it's doable for any language. In fact, isn't true that capitalization and punctuation, in the West, were invented for the sake of the printing press' convenience? (Which would mean that there's no correlation to impeccable use of punctuation and capitalization to literary ability, and there isn't.)

    Having said that, I can't stand abnormal punctuation and capitalization in prose, poetry or whatever. Nothing should shift the focus from the use of the words themselves, their unique combination or lack thereof, when appraising poetry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by My2cents View Post
    If you know Thai, or even little bit of it, you know that there's no capitalization or punctuation. It's all in the context. And though that would be annoying and impractical in English (as we're so used to punctuation and capitalization) I think it's doable for any language. In fact, isn't true that capitalization and punctuation, in the West, were invented for the sake of the printing press' convenience?
    Just because something is artificial does not mean that it does not acquire meaning and power. The whole written language is a mere convenience for communication - but it makes types of communication possible that would not be possible with only the spoken word. The written word increases the subtlety of a language, and punctuation in turn increases the subtlety of the written word.

    (Which would mean that there's no correlation to impeccable use of punctuation and capitalization to literary ability, and there isn't.)
    That's a sweeping statement. Certainly there are people who can punctuate perfectly who couldn't write a story or poem to save their lives. Conversely, there are people with a natural feeling for language who can't, or don't bother to, punctuate properly - though I think such people are rare. I suppose you could say Eminem shows a certain crude flair for language, and I imagine (maybe I'm wrong?) he isn't too interested in punctuation. But then, his medium is the spoken word, and we're talking about literature.

    In general, a good writer uses punctuation as one of the tools of the trade. So I would have to disagree that there is no correlation.

  8. #8
    ^^^^
    My point is that punctuation is remedial stuff. If punctuation is the focus, then obviously what's at issue isn't art.

  9. #9
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FranzS View Post
    As for line breaks... How can you write poetry without line breaks? They are fundamental to the structure of a poem, and are also a way of adding pauses where no explicit punctuation would be appropriate.
    It is easy to write poetry without line breaks--just remove them. If the poem is metrical, the sound of it should allow the listener to put in those breaks if desired. If it is not, Baudelaire already set the structure for prose poems.

    Admittedly poems look like flash fiction without the line breaks, but removing the line breaks has a value for both metrical and non-metrical poetry. If one is writing nonsense, it is harder to hide.

    Quote Originally Posted by FranzS View Post
    I don't trust MS Word's grammar checker as far as I could throw it
    Actually, I don't trust it either, but I like how it points out potential problems that might require a rewriting.
    Don't forget the poetry contests at http://www.online-literature.com/for...s-amp-Contests

  10. #10
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Yeah but I find poetry without line breaks is like short stories without paragraphs. It's a put off for most readers. If we have to plough through something because the writer couldn't be bothered setting their work out in the proper format, why would we give it the attention they think it deserves? IMO the writer is using less energy and shifting it to the reader.
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  11. #11
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    I agree. People expect the line breaks, so why not give it to them?
    Don't forget the poetry contests at http://www.online-literature.com/for...s-amp-Contests

  12. #12
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by My2cents View Post
    ^^^^
    My point is that punctuation is remedial stuff. If punctuation is the focus, then obviously what's at issue isn't art.
    That's like suggesting the quality of materials used in producing a painting or a sculpture isn't relevant.
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  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Delta40 View Post
    That's like suggesting the quality of materials used in producing a painting or a sculpture isn't relevant.
    No, what I'm suggesting is punctuation is to addition,subtraction, division, and multiplication as calculus, linear algebra, and advanced math is to art, poetry, and fiction. It goes without saying that anyone doing art, poetry, and fiction has mastered the rudiments of language, which punctuation is.

  14. #14
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by My2cents View Post
    It goes without saying that anyone doing art, poetry, and fiction has mastered the rudiments of language, which punctuation is.
    Really? That's quite an assumption on your part. I take it you're not assuming that only those who would dabble in such arts are all educated are you?
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  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Delta40 View Post
    Really? That's quite an assumption on your part. I take it you're not assuming that only those who would dabble in such arts are all educated are you?
    I don't know what's so hard to understand. Poetry and fiction are the highest forms of writing, meaning to do them WELL punctuation shouldn't even be issue to the extent you would need a schoolmarm telling you at every turn how to parse the sentence with a comma, a semicolon or what not.

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