Writing Well and Punctuation

I saw a quote just now that writers need to learn punctuation,  because if they get one tiny thing wrong, editors will throw their story right out.

Um – really???

If I write a good story, with compelling situations, relatable characters, and a great ending – are they really going to see a comma in the wrong place and throw their hands up in dismay “Oh for the love of Pete! There’s a mistake in punctuation! We can’t use this!”


If my writing is such that even one tiny punctuation error stands out, then the problem is more than punctuation, isn’t it?

The quote goes on to say that you have to know punctuation to even begin to write.

Again – really? I need to know punctuation to even begin writing?


I mean – when was the last time you finished an amazing book with the sated sigh, “Now that was great punctuation!”

To begin writing, one only needs imagination and the oppressive urge to tell a story. Pencil and paper help but even those simple tools aren’t vital to writing a story; they only come in handy for writing a story down. Writing – the actual agonizing creative process comes from inside, your heart and soul and memories and needs and fears and dreams and grudges and all those things that skulk at the edges, clamoring to be made real.

Writing well doesn’t mean writing perfectly. It means putting your readers into the story so completely they don’t even see the words on the page, much less the punctuation. Worry about telling your story first, everything else comes later.



4 thoughts on “Writing Well and Punctuation

  1. I guarantee there are punctuation errors in every work of any length. And I know I’ve found various typographic errors in every novel I’ve read. We’re all human – writers and editors. That’s not to say we should be sloppy about grammar and basic writing skills. But definitely the story comes first. Perfect punctuation and grammar won’t save a poorly plotted or told tale!

  2. Pingback: The Right and Wrong of Writing | Odds and Ends: Pit's Complete Waste of Bandwidth

  3. “if they get one tiny thing wrong, editors will throw their story right out.” — Isn’t that kind of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? And isn’t that one of the things editors look for and correct? Whoever that quote was from wasn’t thinking this through…

    “Now that was great punctuation!” — I say that about every work I read. Word for word. I don’t need a plot or characters or anything – give me a well-placed comma and I’m satisfied.

    Seriously, who wrote that quote? Punctuation is important (if it’s bad, I usually can’t read the story because I’m so distracted), but a tiny little mistake here or there will hardly break a good story. Heck, I’d take several mistakes for a good story. 🙂

    “It means putting your readers into the story so completely they don’t even see the words on the page” — ABSOLUTELY. I wish more authors did that. Honestly, some of the very best things I’ve ever read were unpublished, unedited by a professional, and free to read online. Sure, there are some errors, but so? It’s still an awesome story.

    Interesting post. I hadn’t thought anyone actually believed that…

  4. I’ve forgotten the name of the person who said this, but she was (or is) a famous author. Or famous enough to be quoted. I thought it was a ludicrous statement, made by someone who is insecure enough in their own abilities that they need to make other people insecure as well. Personally, I love to write and I want everybody else to love to write too because I think it’s an amazing talent that everyone has and can develop. I figure – get the story written and then worry about details. You can’t hem the dress before you’ve woven the fabric, after all.

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