Write: Basic Creative Writing Skills for Beginners 7: Punctuation | Brian Jackson | Skillshare

Write: Basic Creative Writing Skills for Beginners 7: Punctuation

Brian Jackson, Author/Publisher/Educator

Write: Basic Creative Writing Skills for Beginners 7: Punctuation

Brian Jackson, Author/Publisher/Educator

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2 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Punctuation

    • 2. Punctuation Writing Session

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About This Class

Write: Basic Creative Writing Skills for Beginners 7: Punctuation

In this class we talk all about punctuation from the simple to understand period to commas, semicolons and mdashes -- you're about to learn them all.  After watching this class you'll no everything you need to punctuate like a pro!


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Brian Jackson



Born in Los Angeles in the middle of the last century, I have always wanted to be a writer. After twenty-five some odd years spent working in the computer industry in the heart of the Silicon Valley, first for Lockheed as a Systems Programmer and later for Cisco Systems as a test tool developer, I managed to retire early and begin my next career as a self-published author.

Along with writing and publishing my own novels I also publish the works of my wife, Melanie Jackson. During the past four years I've published well over 100 books in paperback and eBook formats. Oddly enough this includes eBooks on how to self-publish books and how to create professional looking book covers using the GIMP. I've also recorded and distributed a pair of audiobooks available for purchase on Amazon... See full profile

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1. Punctuation: Hello, everyone. In this lecture, we're going to talk about a very important subject punctuation. However, before you run away, let me assure you, this is probably going to go much quicker and easier than you originally thought again. A very important subject and you know it. You've heard about it. Let's learn how to do it right? And let's do it as simply and painlessly as possible. Let's begin. First, we're gonna begin with Brian's first through third laws of punctuation. Here we come, the 1st 3 laws of punctuation, according to Bryant. And once again, these are all of my fundamental laws. This is the way that I understand English and punctuation, and all I did was at the end review a few Google searches to verify that I didn't miss anything. Nate Major and otherwise, you're seeing my understanding of punctuation while a number one use a period to terminate a sentence. So in the last lecture, we learned about words and how the first word in a sentence is going to be capitalized and we'll end with the period, and we can have either one or more spaces or one or two spaces. I should say before the next sentence. No spaces at the end of a paragraph. Instead, we have a new line and then maybe five, and that's I'm getting through the last lecture. But the point is that you end sentences with a period and a sentence expresses a complete but let's look at law number to use commas to insert pauses and sentences. Now we're going to do quite a bit of work just in this lecture on commas and recognizing these pauses. So I'm gonna move on right now from the second law to the Third Law. This is really Maurin Amendment of the first Law, saying, instead of using a period, use a question mark determinate a sense that asks the question. OK, I paraphrase that for some reason, but you can now use either periods or question marks determinate sentences, depending on if the sentence asks a question or not. Now, I wanted to add some additional information on comments. Here is the beginning of all the information you to get on comments. This is my humble opinion. It's better to use too few commas than to many. I've seen comma ideas you can put in Kamas to the point that it actually changes the meaning of a sentence makes it incorrect. Don't get carried away with comets. Keep it simple, and it's best to read your work out loud to hear the pauses, which are the commas in your writing. Now notice how there was a little pause in what is a parent Thet ical expression Or in aside, this is one example of where you want to use commas and notice how there was a pause. Work out loud to hear pauses, which are the commas in your writing. This little aside is set aside by commas. Delimiting start in the end of the aside. Once again, it's called a parenthetical expression or in aside and we're gonna look more at that when we look into commas. But for right now, I want to move on to the laws of punctuation for fiction. Here I'm gonna add Brian's Fourth Law, and it's the law of punctuating fiction, and here it is used double quotes to enclose dialogue. Now, when you use double quotes, your program, whatever you using may translate them like word does into these smart quotes noticed the kind of yin yang looking symbol to the quotes in the presence cities Well, what it will do is it will put the one set of quotes of the front and the other set of quotes at the end, as in this example Hi, Carol noticed the comma used to separate the sentence and who is being spoken to and then a period at the end. And all of this incurs within the double quotes and notice. They're smart quotes, so one kind of points down and the other points up. That's part of Power Point and how it uses double quotes. No doubt I'll be discussing dialogue in greater detail in a later lecture. So let's move on. And that's it. I know I surprised you, didn't I? You weren't quite expecting this yet, but that's the basics of punctuation. Now I know it went by so fast that you probably forgot what we even said. So let's review use a single period determinative sentence. Use commas to insert pauses and two sentences. And remember, it's best to read your stuff. To hear those pauses where the Commons belong. Use a single quotation mark instead of a period to terminate a sense that has a question and use double quotes to enclose dialogue. That's it. That is all four of my laws of punctuation. And with that you can do a lot. And in fact, I want to bring you now to Brian's guiding principle of punctuation. And can you guess what it is? That's right. Keep it simple. And in fact, it's a supporting argument. I'm gonna stay this. I can write compelling and persuasive prose using no punctuation other than a period and a comma. If I had to ask a question and I didn't have a question mark, I just rephrase it to not be a question I can get along with periods and commas. Now, of course, you'll have to cede me the double quote for dialogue. If you want me to write fiction, there's a lot of dialogue and fiction, and I need the double quotes then and okay, I'll admit that a question mark is quite handy when it comes to asking questions. So that's it. I call it four mark punctuation or the basics of punctuation. You just use a period Akama, a question mark end quotes for dialogue. That's it. Now are you ready to expand on the basics. We've learned the basics, and if that's all you want to know, go right using those. But we're gonna extend this just a little further. And don't worry. There's not much further, actually to go with punctuation. First, let's take the first and third laws and amend it slightly to expand it to call them sentence Terminators and make a broader definition. Here, sentences may be terminated by one of three punctuation marks. A period? Ah, question mark or an exclamation mark. We've added an exclamation mark to the list. Notable exceptions to this rule include the use of the colon to terminate a paragraph before list, as in this very example. And here we have a list that follows notice the colon is at the end of that sentence. To proceed the list, you should try to avoid needless spaces after the last sentence in paragraph. This is just for producing clean text that's easy to publish. These extra spaces show up on kindles, and stuff like that is new pages in some cases, and note the items in a bullet list and titles are not terminated. Using punctuation notice that all of these slides don't have periods at the end while they do in a list and and the colon ending. But the rest of the bulleted items don't have punctuation ending them, and neither do the titles up at the top, and neither will the titles like Chapter one will not end with a period when you use that as the title to a chapter. Okay, so there we've amended rules one and three, and I want to talk a little bit about when I use exclamation marks, and that's for dialogue. First you use exclamation marks to express extreme emotion. Now I don't usually put that much of motion into my writing, so I usually relegate exclamation marks, as I quite often do question marks, actually to dialogue. So don't you care? She exclaimed. Notice how don't you care? It makes that more of a a a dire statement, and you express that with the exclamation mark and notice that the entire sentence with the exclamation mark is enclosed in quotes. Because it's what somebody is saying. So it's dialogue. Now I want to go back and review to I want to look at the use of comments. Let me show you four specific cases in which you use commas to insert pauses in a sentence , and I want you to hear them as I read these sentences first as sentence lead ins. Listen to these sentences. First there was the weather. To be fair, it wasn't that bad. In fact, it was pretty good notice, Hauser. There's that little pause where the comma occurs. All of these air kind of preconditions that give you a little warning about the sentence like first says this is gonna be the first item. Like I'm gonna create a list. Basically, if I say first, there's probably gonna be a 2nd 2nd and 1/3. To be fair here, I'm warning that, you know, this is a maybe a clarification on the first sentence, to be fair. And then, in fact, I conclude it was pretty good. So I'm all these air pre qualifiers to the sentence or lead ins. Next, we have lists. So, for instance, he won the 1st 2nd and final race of the day. Now I want to talk about one special comma, and that's a comma that I excluded from after the words Second, if you're using Strunk and White or some standard tomes such as that it's a short tome to define your punctuation. Then you might include a comma there. It's called the Oxford Common. There is great debate over there, whether there should be a comma between the in this case, second element in the and the N word. And before the final element of this list, right, we have 1st 2nd and final. So we have three items Notice we have a comma between first and second, but we have the word without a comma between second and final. Now, if you use the Oxford comma, then you would put a comma after the word second and before, and I'm trying more and more toe lose it because it's falling out of fashion. So I'm trying to follow that style anyway, just to give you a little old history on commas. Next comes parenthetical expressions. We've addressed those a little bit. Let me show you a really good one here. Sir Anthony, a notorious womanizer, was the last to arrive at the party. Now, notice these parents medical expressions are these little asides. The way that I hear them in my head is that it's kind of like, oh, I'm going to whisper this little aside to add a little more information. But don't let anybody else here, right? Like I'm whispering it to you. Sir Anthony, a notorious womanizer, was the last to arrive at a party at the party. Okay, so these little asides air parent, technical expressions, you could use parentheses to enclose them. I think that looks silly in and fiction writing. So I use commas instead. And finally for dialogue. We already covered quite a bit of this, and we're gonna cover a little bit more dialogue before then. You must be mistaken. Comma, Audrey exclaimed. So when you put who's speaking, you end the sentence with a comma inside the double quotes, and then you move on with who said this thing. So that's the second law using comments. And here is four great examples of where you use commas. I'm sure that there's other as I missed, but these the big opportunities I use now, what about common alternatives? I know you're asking, for instance, when do I use parentheses? Well, it's with acronyms. First, you use parentheses, much Maurin nonfiction than I do in fiction, and I can even use them for parenthetical asides rather than using commas, as I didn't last example more of a nonfiction thing than I do in fiction. In fiction, I prefer to use commas to delimit parenthetical asides. As I showed you the new student who was a bit of a loner, I left the room without comment. Notice how you get that little, that lowering of voice, and I want to whisper this to you. That's what a parent medical aside sounds like. And that's what I'm saying. Read your sentences out loud so you can hear these things in here with the comments. Go now. I always use parentheses, toe identify, acronyms, for instance. International business machines, IBM and Pregnancies and the Internal Revenue Service I. R. S and parentheses. Now the rule is that once you define an acronym in this way, you can use the acronym instead of the full name. So I say International Business Machines and then IBM in parentheses. Once and from then on the rest of the book or whatever I'm writing, I could just keep saying IBM and people will remember supposedly that it refers to international business machines now have used a lot of acronyms and it's a long book. You might wanna have a list of acronyms somewhere in there to remind people that the acronyms you're using. But anyway, this is the basic rule, and this is really the only place I use parentheses. When do I use semicolons to combine sentences? Now? Semi colons are used to insert a pause in a sentence harder and longer than a comma pause, but short of terminating the sentences in the case of period. So a semi colon is somewhere between a colon and a period. Maybe that's what it includes, both of them a colon ended period. That's what it looks like. I don't need them. I have no need for something stronger than a comma and weaker than a period. I therefore Onley used them for one simple trick, and that's to connect sentences in this way. Consider these two sentences. Fairness and testing was not a priority. The tests were rigged. Now, nervous held that two sentences are kind of related. It would almost be nice to have them be one sentence, as in this example, fairness and testing was not a priority. Semi colon, specifically comma. The tests were rigged. It allows me to put that little connector word in there specifically to talk about how the second sentence connects to the first and then stuffed together with semi colon. Isn't that a neat trick? So to make longer, more complicated sentences, if you want to write that way of that, your style or if it's the style for a particular thing you're writing like somebody's dialogue style, then you might want to take advantage of this. Let's look at another example so we could get the hang of this. You may have grasped High point Punctuation is simple. Now notice that hard pause there of the period. Instead, we could say You may have grasped my point. Namely, that punctuation is simple. We use, namely is little connector were there in the semi colon and calm a trick before and after it. So this is the only place I use semicolons to do this little connector trick with a word. Practice it. It's helpful. Next, I want to cover when my wife uses Net em dashes for parent technical expressions. Now I personally don't do this, but my wife has an interesting habit of using em dashes in place of commas and parenthetical expressions. So soniya was a mess. In fact, she was dressed in rags, though she was still technically considered royalty. She would do little asides like this using the EM Dash, which is just a long dash. It's an M size dash M is the site of a space that's that's longer than it n. So it's not an en dash. It's an EM dash a longer dash, and this has become central to my wife's writing. It's pretty much defining part of her style, and this is your own style that you're gonna be after. You're gonna have to your own style of punctuation. Interesting. Now I wanna look once again at the fourth Law, using double quotes to enclose dialogue. Now remember, we're talking about double quotes and that single quotes we never use single quotes, use quotes and a period Terminator when performing Simple quoting of statements. So let me get giving example. Don't be stupidly Roy. Notice once again that comma between don't be stupid and who is being talked to. That's the way that you typically do it, period. That's the first sentence. Another sentence. Take the money period. Both of those air enclosed in double quotes. Somebody's saying it, but we haven't identified who potentially we know who. Because it's part of a lot of dialogue. And there's only one person speaking. Note the comma between the first statement and the target of statements again. Leroy here. This is the way that you that you talk to somebody in dialogue, use quotes, an accommodate identify the source of a statement, as in this example. Don't be stupidly Roy once when we've got that, But we ended with a comma instead of a period, and habits say, Laura said period. This extends the dialogue through who said it don't be stupidly Roy, Laura said, Period, take the money. And I would assume that since on the same line, it's Laura saying that as well. So that's the way. Identify who is saying the quoted dialogue. Simple. Two rules here and it with a period. End it with a comma. If you're saying who is saying it now we're old, the only thing that says that we're extending the dialogue through, Laura said with the Kama at the end of the first sentence. Now let's expand on the basics even more. That was the extended basics. Now we're gonna look at the extended extended basics. We're gonna look at Coghlan's to proceed a list. Remember the basics of punctuation, colon periods, question marks, commas, end quotes. So this is one classic way to use a colon. Another is to proceed a list as it mind doing here. A separate list. Have a colon and then I say, where I have a sentence and I say Colon. And then here's the first item, the second item on the list. And then I also use Coghlan's to join sentences together when I'm trying to save space for connecting words, agile program management using scrum and trail Oh, I can give one of the words using by just putting a colon in their agile program management scrum and Drell. Oh, so I'm kind of connecting to sentence and getting rid of that extra word. It's a way to save space. Now we move on to ellipses, which, actually ellipsis is the dot, dot dot So I guess if you had more than one of them would be ellipsis is interesting. A lips I I don't know, but it's dot, dot dot and you use ellipsis to terminate a sentence that is incomplete, dr dot or soon completed, so you can kind of put that pause in there. The pause is sometimes a pause, and then the sentence is completed, and sometimes it's a pause that's never completed. John. I don't know what to say, Gloria Gasp. I just don't dr dot She didn't finish the sentence, and that's the way you used a new ellipsis. Okay, now I did a quick Google search to see if I missed anything that would be egregious if I did not cover it during punctuation. And I came up with slashes, square brackets and braces, and I'm not even going to cover them. Other than encoding Slash is, is the Onley things that I use and I use them to indicate options. So, like spring slash winter slash summer slash fall would indicate a option list. Another way is to indicate division or apportionment, so $100 per year or $100 slash why are period, which is for year that means $100 per year. They both mean the same thing. So that's another way that I use Slash is used them very infrequently and guess what gang? That is everything. We have covered all punctuation. Now are you ready to write? Let's go right and see what we can do with punctuation. 2. Punctuation Writing Session: Hello and welcome to the writing session on punctuation in this session, we're going to do all things punctuation. We're going to go over the basics first, and then we're going to continue to extend our punctuation until we've covered everything. So let's begin by looking at sentence Terminators, we begin with the sentence. Paul was scared. Okay, We upper case the first letter. In fact, we would do that anyway, because this is a This is a proper noun. So Paul would be in upper case, and then we terminate the sentence with a period here. We terminate the next sentence with a question mark, and we even put in one of those commas with this is a little sentence intro. But then what else would you expect from a wanted man? And then finally we say a calm demeanor, answering the question. And here we put an exclamation mark to me were rather frazzled about the answer. So here in the single paragraph, you're seeing the three Terminators for sentences. The period, the question mark. If the sentence is a question and an exclamation mark toe, add a little emphasis to pretty much this means a think of a sentence that's more or less shouted. That's very dramatic. Uh, we want to start a new paragraph once again from the white space in the previous lecture. We know I just hit Return and let's play around with some other punctuation. Let's play with commas. Here we have a sentence. The 1st 2nd and third options air Good. Now, when you have a list such as this, you separate the items in the list by a comma, except you drop the last come with one before the and because that's the Oxford comma, remember? And we're not using Oxford commas were updating. To tell you the truth. In the past, I always used on Oxford commas, and I think Strunk and White still says you should. But the modern Chicago style book and so on say that you should drop the Oxford comment. So I'm working hard. Do that. So the 1st 2nd and third options are good, and then we have yet another comma breaking a sentence that is connected by. But now this is very common to connect sentences by but and and then things like that and usually precede them with a comma. I'd like to see what other options exist, and we terminate the sentence with a period. So that's an example of using commas in a sentence. And when it comes to style, I want to show you a parenthetical aside, the two different ways the way that I do it and the way that my wife does it using an em dash. Here's a parenthetical aside when we have Roger was good for a man noticed that little lowering of the voice, their right for a man. But Nancy was better. This is a parenthetical asides. So we're going to comment on the fact that Roger is was good in the middle of this sentence and then continue on with the sentence notice that you could take away the parenthetical aside in most cases. In fact, in every case, I think, and it still is a valid sentence. Roger was good, but Nancy was better, is what the sentence would be without the parenthetical aside. But we can put this in here to add a little emphasis or a little more information to the sentence. Now let's see whether parent medical aside looks like with em dashes and here it iss I had a feeling not always a good thing, that we were in trouble. Now the em dash. I got this just by typing two hyphens after one after another. Word automatically knows sometimes to expand that to an em dash. Sometimes you got to go back and replace all year hyphen hyphens with em dashes cause word forgets kind of periodically to expand them. So let me show that to you. Now, did you see the way that these two hyphens collapsed into a long or an em dash? This happens automatically in a word. So if you're using em dashes, then that's the way to do it. And let's work a little bit with dialogue, although later we're gonna have amore extensive session with dialogue, I want to do a little bit with quoting with you. Okay, this is dialogue and it is dialogue because it's enclosed in double quotes. I noticed these air smart quotes, So it's changing. Word is changing the beginning and ending Quote to be different kinds of quotes to kind of wrap and show you where the beginning in the end of the thing is now. I can also identify who's speaking. You're a fool Mark retorted and notice how in this case, rather than ending the sentence with a period, we end it with a comma and continue on after the right double quote with Mark retorted. Now, if Mark has more to say, we can continue it on this paragraph by starting a new sentence here. We wouldn't have to say that Mark said it because we already know that since it's on the same paragraph line. We know this is more than Mark has to say, but I think you already know that, right? Mark concludes. So this is the way that you write dialogue. If you want to associate somebody with saying it, then you put the comma and there at the end. And if you don't, then you put the period there at the end to terminate a sentence. The next thing that I want to show to you is the little trick for combining sentences is using semi colon and a connecting word. So here we go. Here we go. More cad. One glaring flaw. Namely that he could see no good and others. Now we could split this into two separate sentences. Let me do that Now. There we go. Mark had one glaring flaw. Namely, that he could see no good and others. This would be another writing style. It would be a harder break. And the fact that these two sentences air kind of related to the same thing, I would want to pull them together. So the way that I would pull them together is to replace that period and the new sentence with a semi colon like that. Now, you could, of course, get rid of namely, um, but I kind of like having these connecting words. This is a little more terse. Mark had one glaring flaw that he could see no good and others. So this is another way to connect things. And actually, you know, you could take a softer break here and do a comma in this place, and I think it would Still, it's still grammatically correct. And it could be your style to not use semicolons. No, not use hard pauses. You're defining your style here in picking up certain punctuation styles and leaving others behind. And for now, I think that's all that I want to give you for punctuation. Stick with the period question Mark, Exclamation mark. And to tell you the truth, as I said before, I use exclamation marks and dialogue and not really in my prose or in my writing. Use commas for introductions to the sentences, to separate lists and in dialogue and for parent medical asides where my wife uses the em dash instead, that's another option. If you want to pull that into your style and then remember to terminate a sentence with a period or with a comma. If you want to say in dialogue who it is, that speaking okay and then you can use the semi colon for combining sentences. That's about it. That's about what I do as far as punctuation. I know it should be a lot more complicated than that. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but punctuation is simple. I'll see you in the next lecture, where we'll begin looking at sentences