Punctuate your poetry

Unless you have a particular reason for changing rules in written English, plain old punctuation will clarify your meaning and guide readers into comprehending what they read. This especially relieves readers who think they “don’t get” poetry. Besides, if your poems make them feel smart, understood, remembered, and acknowledged, they’ll be apt to read your work again and maybe buy your book!

We’ve talked about punctuation before but never discussed the meaning of the word, which, according to one of Webster’s tomes, tells us that punctuate stems from the Latin word punctus, which translates as point.

You can make a point with punctuation for emphasis.

You can interrupt a flow of words, for instance, when a political speech is punctuated with cheers or jeers.

You can regulate the pacing of your poem with timely use of punctual punctuation (pun intended.)

As you and your readers read a poem aloud, punctuation marks carry you along from line to line with occasional pauses, stops, rests, or points of acceleration. Since the thought of flowing traffic makes a good comparison, here’s a quick overview of punctuation options:

Comma, caution light to slow reading without a full stop

Colon: intersection to stop and look for what’s coming

Dash – pedestrian crosswalk

Period. red light. red light. stop. stop. stop.

© 2012, Mary Sayler, all rights reserved. If your punctuation or other poetic parts need professional help, check out the options on my website. We’ll both be glad you did.

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2 thoughts on “Punctuate your poetry

  1. Thanks, Sandi. Sometimes poets (myself included) use line breaks in lieu of punctuation, but most of the time good ole dashes, commas, and periods work well in helping readers comprehend what's said.

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