Punctuation Party Stereotypes

By: Mairead Loschi

If you’re living the life of a typical college student, you’ve probably made it to a party or two (no word back on if you remember them…). And, if you’re at all like me (a writer and a deeply introverted person), you’ve probably also cringed at the memory of going to any of those parties. I’ve tried a few methods to get over my shyness at these social events. My latest plan was to bring a notecard with 3 thought provoking and engaging questions to foster interesting conversation. This, however, inevitably failed. I remember being stuck, sitting on a couch, and watching my fellow partygoers move around me. Suddenly, it hits me. Every person in this room can be described with a punctuation mark (and no, I haven’t been doing any illicit substances or been drinking heavily. I’m just a writer at a party who is isolated with her thoughts and has been doing a lot of copy-editing recently).

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So here it is, my punctuation party sketch.

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The exclamation point: (used to indicate strong feelings or high volume)

This person crosses the threshold into the party and, although it is pretty dark in here and there are bodies everywhere, is greeted without fail with “Finally, I’m so glad you made it!!” or “OMG so happy to see you!” You look up and it’s your tipsy guy friend who always seems to get cheerier and touchier the longer the night goes on. He wraps you in a huge hug. He’s wearing a white T-shirt under an eye-watering shade of blue button-down and a hat that reads Let’s Party.

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The comma: (indicating a pause between parts of a sentence or used to separate items in a list)

The comma is the friend that you arrived with who grabs you by the wrist, pulling you deeper into the crowd. She says, “okay here’s what I need, another drink, a dark corner where I can dance, and Ignition Remix on repeat”. She’s your comma, a lover of lists and a firm believer in the classic use of the Oxford comma.

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The Certitude point: (used to end a sentence with unwavering conviction)

Standing by the doorway, you get the chance to observe the pick up artist who is well practiced in the delivery of cheesy one liners (For example: “how much does a polar bear weigh”) and a whole array of surface compliments. But hey, at least this guy can approach others with statements of purpose and certainty in his intentions. After all, confidence is key.

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The Period: (a full stop that ends a sentence)

This person is leaning against the doorframe, largely unimpressed by the pick-up artist’s attempted come-ons, and simply states, “climate change is a real problem and I don’t think it’s the weight of polar bears that’s causing fissures in arctic ice caps,” before walking away to refill their drink. End of that conversation.

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The Semicolon: (used to connect two independent clauses)

At the bottom of the staircase that leads to the second floor is the friend who’s eveyone else’s wing-(wo)man. She spends the night connecting acquaintances with “have you met”s and “my friend’s super into tennis too”s.

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The Question mark: (used to indicate an interrogative clause)

A few feet away are two new acquaintances and you can tell that one is interrogating the other. That’s the Question mark. He rattles on with, “What’s your major?” “Where are you from?” “How many pounds did you weigh at birth?” “What’s your astrological sign?” He is crushing any possible future conversations under the weight of his questions.

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The Em-dash: (used to mark off information or ideas that are not essential to an understanding of the rest of the sentence)

At the corner of the kitchen table – now a makeshift snack bar – is any member of the LRR fiction panel, newly obsessed with the grammar of em-dashes and using every opportunity to clarify the long-winded story they’re telling.

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The Quotation Marks: (used to set off direct speech, a quotation, or a phrase)

The pretentious intelligentsia drink-sipper boring those around them with, “I was reading Nobokov the other day” and “I believe it was Audre Lorde who said”.

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The Interrobang: (combination exclamation point and question mark that has recently begun gaining popularity)

The resident hipster drinks her elderberry wine with holistic properties in order to prevent hangovers. She got this symbol tattooed on her forearm because she saw it online once and loved the symbolism, as she also questions life with a passion.

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The Ellipses inside Parentheses: (used when omitting a word, phrase, or more to save space or remove material that is less relevant)

Me, sitting on the couch. I am half caught up in daydreams of my punctuated fellow party-goers and half inner eye-rolling, carrying on an internal conversation questioning why I even went out.

 

Embarrassing First Lines

By: Sydney Lauro

A few years ago, my mom found an old composition notebook of mine from when I was a wee tike. In it, there was one entry that struck her. It said something like: “Meghan (my sister) says if I try hard one day I might write good.” Even little me knew that I wanted to be a novelist. The phases of me wanting to be a pediatrician, an architect, a buyer / business lady wouldn’t last. What parent wouldn’t be proud of their kid throwing away money and stability for books and an inevitable prescription for glasses?

Well, my mom was thrilled. She had read every crappy novel I ever wrote, and she was still like, “Go, Sydney! Live your dream!”

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(Creative Commons/ Flickr)

And I believe that she was right to do so. I’ve come a long, long way. It’s a history I’m both mortified and thrilled to share. So, here goes:

It all began a long time ago with a fantasy novel I wrote and re-wrote a few times before finishing. It’s called Sarma. The first line was: “The rain soaked my auburn hair, and the tiny droplets of water destroyed my fabulous silk robes.” Yikes. A little melodramatic, and not very original or interesting. But hey, at least I didn’t write a character exactly like me. Auburn hair and fab silk robes? That ain’t me.

When I was 13, I was still a little stuck. In a book labeled “Love Story 2009,” we get: “The raindrops were like bullets ricocheting off the mansions rooftop.” Rain again? This was also back when I was thinking, “wow love stories are the way to go.”

The same year I decided to write something called To the Stars With Difficulty (who knows why that title) and I diverged from the rain trope, electing to go with: “My name is Cadence, Cadence Morgan Foxwood.” While I admit that’s a great name, it’s no call to read. There’s nothing at stake. What’s to separate Cadence Foxwood from Alex Chase? Carmody Evans? She might as well be Jane Doe. Jane Doe might even be more interesting.

’09 must have been a big year for me because I also started a project called Dreamweaver. “The Suburban street flashed by outside the car window, and I ducked down, out of sight, from the children playing foolish games like street hockey and tag.” Oh those hooligans! Playing street hockey? And tag? The nerve! I think it’s obvious that teenage me had some angst and wasn’t the most social creature (I mean, I wrote the greater part of three books that year).

The next year brought even more angst. The Shoes of Jennifer Satchet began a little like “Junior year is not something worth looking forward to.” Poor young Sydney. She was only a freshman and already dreading junior year. I still couldn’t separate my emotions from my writing and couldn’t put myself in the mind of other people.

And there’s a whole era of these self-obsessed, cliché, trite, boring, bored, depressed, self-loathing novels. There’s With Yet Stronger Reason, which I’m pretty sure is about this time-traveller dude who is miserable and depressed until he meets this chick Misty. Boring.

BOOK – MUSIC is about two musicians at a highly competitive school being depressed together. And somehow learning the Japanese language is involved.

WALKING BOOK is something about how King Aldrous the Mighty (yeah, that’s right) was an asshole and these people became outcasts in society.

But then there’s a breakthrough. I never titled this one, but it’s called “humanoids, dystopia novel,” and I started it in 2011 when I was 16.

“I remember my father telling me we had all but won.” That’s not half bad. So they lost? Lost what? Why did your dad tell you that? What’s the story? It evokes some curiosity, it has nothing to do with my little teenage life, it doesn’t involve rain or being depressed, and I had finally written a strong main character who wasn’t sad all the time. But more importantly, I found my aesthetic: social commentary. ‘Humanoids, dystopia novel’ is about different species of human emerging over time and how they are discriminated and hunted by the regular humans. So yeah, still a little angsty, but it was a direct commentary on things I was seeing in the world. Things I wanted to create a conversation about. Break. Through.

I took a hiatus for a little bit, but I came back strong with the next book. This project turned into a trilogy. And I actually finished every single one.

The Garden of Eden: The prologue begins “The Earth is, or was, or was meant to be, paradise.” (Ooh what does that mean?) And chapter one starts with some anonymous narrator asking, “Can I show you something?”

The Earth King: “It was said that the valley below the escarpment was something truly beautiful.”

The Man and His Star: “Men would later say that there was a first cause to the universe.”

Getting better, right?

I’m now writing my thesis, which is a novel. Its prologue starts, “His fingers snapped, crisply popping, though it felt more like metal kernels of popcorn exploding through the joints in his hand.” I admit this was not the original first line because even that was bad. In fact, chapter one became chapter two, and then I still decided to add a prologue to bury the original first sentence. It goes to show that writing is this constantly evolving process that’s never really finished or perfect.

I’m already writing ahead, trying to figure out what my next book will be, because what looking back at these crappy first lines tells me is that I’m growing exponentially. I’m growing so fast that I can’t even finish a book before outgrowing the beginning.

It’s important to look at this hilarious progression of first-sentences. It’s important to remember how bad you were once but that hard work pays off. Great writers don’t become that way overnight.

5 Tips for Being a Good Editor

A good writer is nothing without a good editor. However, a good editor is not always easy to come by. Just as there is an art to writing, there is an art to editing.

Here are five tips for being a good editor. 

  1. Proofreading is not editing.

Proofreading (or copyediting) is focused on surface errors such as grammatical errors, spelling, incorrect word choice, and syntactical issues. This copyeditors’ marks sheet from Wiley will give you a good sense of the type of mistakes proofreaders look for. Editing is part of the revision process and, while good editing has proofreading components, it looks deeper into the content of the work. Does it make sense? What point is the author trying to make? Is he or she able to make it clearly? How could the piece be improved? A good way to approach editing is to write questions in the margins of the text you’re reading as they come to your head. Another way is to write very short summaries next to paragraphs to see if your understanding matches the author’s goals.

  1. Understand what the writer is looking for.

When a writer asks you to edit their work always ask for a clarification: Do they want you to proofread or to edit? Editing a piece when only a proofreading is expected is not always a welcomed surprise. Once clarified, asked the author if there are specific things they are struggling with, this will let you target your editing to be the most helpful.

  1. Reading for editing is different from reading for pleasure.

Reading for editing requires a high level of engagement. Read slow and steady focusing on each word to understand and evaluate why the author chose that word, structured that sentence that way. Read with a pen in your hand. One method to keep that high level of focus is to tap underneath each word as you read. If you’re editing on the computer edit in full screen mode to limit distractions and run the curser over the screen as you would a pen.

  1. A good editor reads a piece at least three times.

You are never going to get everything the first time you read a piece. A good editing practice is to read a piece three times. The first time limit your marks to small ones: little Xs next to sections that warrant great scrutiny and checks next to sections that hit the mark (use different color highlighting if working on a computer) The second time write your questions and comments in the margins; spend extra time on the sections you marked in the first reading. During the third reading write suggested revisions next to areas of peak concern.

  1. Color is critical. 

Always edit in a color that is different than the color of the text you’re editing. It’s important your edits and comments stand out on the page and are easy to read. I like to use a different color for each reading; this allows the author to see my thought process in the most complete way possible. When editing on the computer ALWAYS use track changes and, because track changes in Google Docs is lousy, edit in Microsoft Word whenever possible.

Note: It’s a good idea to check with the writer about what color pen to use when editing their working. For some people large amounts of red ink can add stress to the revision process. Purple is a great secondary color choice.