Playwriting

Standing on a Soap box railing about Punctuation….

I got me a little pet peeve. Let’s talk about it. Wait a second while I drag out my soap box….

There is much to admire and be amazed at with regard to recent advancements in communication technology. As a writer, I use every scrap of new technology at my disposal and think often about how on earth we survived without the internet buzzing beneath our fingers, the immediacy of sending a text, the convenience of catching up on email from the road.

Having said all that, I’ve got one major writerly pet peeve. The advancement of communication technology has brought about the demise of punctuation in the written word. Along with the rise of texting has come the fall of the period, the death of the capital, and the complete disappearance of the comma. It’s amazing how many letters I receive (email or otherwise) that do not have one full complete, proper sentence. This is particularly amazing when the email is business related, which sends out a pretty negative vibe about the sender. Little tip to all you folks out there sending us submissions: nothing makes me want to read your play less, than a poorly written email without one complete, proper sentence.

Certainly, this has all occurred because texting uses the phone keypad and proper sentences take forever to put together. There’s a new language being created every day as more and more short forms come into being. And that’s fine. I can LOL with the best of them. ROTFL even.

Where it becomes a problem is when those short forms find their insidious way into other writing genres. Email. Letters. Short stories. Novels. Plays. These are all forms of communication between the writer and an audience (yes even emails have an audience) where a lack of punctuation is detrimental to the understanding of what’s being said. When a writer doesn’t take the time to think about what should sit at the end of the sentence, they run the risk of having their words misunderstood.

Speaking as a playwright, the idea that punctuation is not important is like a plume through the heart. The number of submissions I get without proper punctuation in the dialogue amazes me on a regular basis.

Punctuation is an extremely useful tool for any writer. There is a world of difference between a sentence that ends in a period, and one that ends in an exclamation mark. In playwriting, punctuation offers a direct line of communication: from playwright to actor, from actor to audience. Punctuation communicates the playwright’s thoughts on pace, tone, rhythm and intention. Punctuation can indicate if a character is lying, or overly emotional, if they are confident or insecure. A chance in punctuation can indicate a change in personality.

For example:
I love you George, really.
I….love you, George. Really…
I love you! George, really.

Each of these lines contains the same dialogue and yet would be delivered completely differently and have completely different meanings. To ignore the importance of punctuation is not to use all the tools available to the writer. The next time you go to write, think about what you’re trying to communicate and who your audience is. You may lose that audience B4UKI…

About the author

Lindsay Price