There’s no such thing as Black and White

Punctuation marks made of puzzle piecesI got a great laugh the other day.

Someone posted a punctuation question on one of the Facebook groups I belong to, and I chimed in. I don’t remember what the exact question was (or my reply for that matter), but after the first couple of responses, the floodgates opened and the opinions of some were replaced by emphatic, “This is the way you do it!” by others.

Is it no wonder writers, I’d venture to say especially newbie writers, get confused, not to mention overwhelmed by the feeling of doing everything wrong.

Talk about a good way to kill any desire to write, and that’s not even taking into consideration screwing up the creative process.

Grammar-related punctuation aside, nothing is ever black and white. Not even punctuation. Google “writing style guides” and you’ll understand what I mean. From the APA to Chicago Manual of Style to MHRA and everything in between, it seems that everyone has their own way of doing things. Some insist on the Oxford comma, others say it’s not necessary. Depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on, you either put punctuation inside of quotation marks or outside. Someone will invariably skewer me on inserting a comma after a parenthetical like I did above; I assert it’s perfectly acceptable to do so, provided the sentence following is an independent clause and you’d use a comma before the conjunction, anyway.

Which brings up the debate over whether to use a comma before a conjunction regardless of whether the sentence following is dependent or independent.

The best advice I can offer is to pick a way of doing things and be consistent. You may work with an editor who disagrees with you, and that’s okay. You can sort it out later. Traditional publishing houses, I’d imagine, have their own internal style guides to ensure consistency across their published works. Self-publishers can decide for themselves what style guide they want to adhere to.

And don’t get into the proverbial pissing contest with someone who insists their way is the only way.

You won’t win.

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