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Punctuation Is Easy, Except When Its It’s Not

By Barbara McClintock, Certified Translator

Casagrande, June, The Best Punctuation Book, Period, Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony, 2014, 256 pp. ISBN-13: 9781607744931 

Why is punctuation such a sticky wicket for translators and writers? There is a plethora of style guides on the market all offering different advice. Of course, there are many different punctuation styles depending on whether you are writing for a particular magazine, online blog, or an academic/scientific/in-house publication. This American guide covers the Associated Press (AP), Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), and The Chicago Manual of Style. It also has a Punctuation Panel made up of professional copy editors working in news media and book publishing. Panelists were asked what they would do in each situation.

The book uses the following letter coding:

B  book-editing style (The Chicago Manual of Style)
N  News media and business writing style (Associated Press Stylebook)
S  Science style (APA)
A  Academic style (MLA Handbook)
+  Punctuation Panel preferences

Punctuate with Confidence—No Matter the Style

Part II provides a handy index of pesky punctuation problems with the letter coding, e.g.
co-op                                      B N S
cooperate                               B N S A
co-opt                                     B N S
coordinate                              B N S
co-owner                                B N S A

couples, couple’s, couples’    + The Punctuation Panel members preferred the singular possessive in They got the couple’s massage. They preferred the plural possessive in They went on a couples’ retreat.

June Casagrande writes the syndicated “A Word, Please” grammar column and has authored three other books, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, Mortal Syntax, and It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences. Based on her book titles, one gathers that Casagrande has a sense of humour. I enjoyed the concept of The Best Punctuation Book, Period, which I give a big thumbs-up.*

*Thumbs-up is written according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary 2004 style.

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