I took a great class at my last conference. It was on Pacing and taught by Josi Kilpack. She said a lot of great things but my favorite was about how punctuation can affect the pacing of our stories.
I hadn’t really thought about it in the cool way she put it:
Think of punctuation as road signs signaling your readers what you want them to do:
- Period (.) – Full stop.
- Comma (,) – Pause, or slow break.
- Ellipsis (…) – Pause, or rubbernecking at an accident.
- Semicolon (;) – Longer pause, or a rolling stop.
- Exclamation (!) – STOP. Yelled stop (That could get annoying fast, use in moderation)
- Question Mark (?) – Pause + prod to do something, or sharp turn.
- Em Dash (—) – Pause + look aside, like slowing to read a billboard.
I am a sucker for a metaphor. Thanks Josi. I won’t think of punctuation the same again.