Editor’s Corner 101.24

Qwerty Irregulars: Punctuation Part I.

Scribe smallSo, I have been rambling on here for six months – my thanks to all of you for bearing with me – and realize that there is one subject I have avoided with conspicuous consistency: punctuation. I am not sure why that’s been the case, but it deserves redressing now.

Caveat lector: I am essentially talking prose, here; the relationship between poets and punctuation being a horse of a very different hue. Not that no rules apply, but that poetic structure – line breaks, stanza breaks, even visual design – can serve as punctuation in its own right. That said, when it comes to punctuation and modern poetry, the editor in me tends to side with the gnome, less is more. But that just me. You poets must find what serves your verse.

Few problems arise over periods or question marks; the one concludes a basic declarative sentence, the other, an interrogative.

It was Scheherazade’s 101st night in the Pasha’s service.
For her life’s sake, could she find one last tale to tell?Princess-Scheherazade-L


Exclamation points are also simple. They express rage, wonder, downright astonishment. As an editor, I urge you to employ them sparingly. If the passion is not in the words and actions, in the prose itself, such punctuation is cosmetic at best. Use at your peril!

More thorny for us scriveners are the interior punctuation marks: commas, dashes, colons, semi-colons, ellipses, apostrophes, even quotation marks and parentheses.


Commas give us pause, literally; they create those moments in which, reader or writer, we catch our breath, regroup our thoughts. We use commas for meter and meaning, to break up long sentences into easily digested chunks.

According to standard usage, there are eleven rules for using commas, including separating independent clauses – two short related sentences that can stand along but which you choose to combine – when preceded by a conjunction (and, but, if, et al.); setting off modifiers and non-essential clauses from the rest of a sentence; around parenthetical phrases; and before direct quotations. I refer you to Elements of Style for pithy examples of each. In short, use commas to illuminate, not muddy, your purpose, for, in a heartbeat, a misplaced comma can careen your tale into entirely unintended territory.


One use of commas that is the focus of increased debate is what is referred to as the serial or Oxford comma. The eponymous Oxford comma – so called because it was rule of thumb for Oxford University Press publications – is that last comma in a list falling just before the conjunction:

She foraged through the produce aisles for snow peas, daikon, and baby eggplant.

This is the standard for Strunk & White, Chicago Manual of Style, U.S. government documents, and Oxford University Press – though not Oxford University PR department, go figure. It is not standard for the AP and most newspapers, nor, for everyday Commonwealth prose (UK, Canada, Australia, etc.)http://www.dreamstime.com/-image18292683 Personally, I like the Oxford comma; I was raised on it and use it religiously. I find it lends that extra smidge of exactitude to one’s prose. If, when you receive your Man Booker, you say, “I want to thank my parents, Iris Murdoch and Graham Greene,” chances are some folks are going to assume you spring from a very rare, if unwarranted, literary pedigree. However, “I want to thank my parents, Iris Murdoch, and Graham Greene,” leaves no doubt as to your lineage or intent.

Use of the serial comma has become an increasingly cultural and personal choice. In the end, remember consistency is key. Use it or not, but be uniform throughout your manuscript.

A few brief notes…
Colons ( : ) come before lists or illustrative examples (do not capitalize the word after the colon no matter how tempting it may be). When a conjunction is absent, use semi-colons ( ; ) rather than commas to join independent clauses. Dashes are often considered interchangeable with parentheses, though I beg to differ. To my chagrin, I used the latter a lot until I realized what fell inside their emoticon moues read as more of an afterthought than I intended. I now use dashes almost exclusively, keeping their contents more immediately tied to the tale. I am also personally fond of semi-colons, though I know many writers who can go pages without using a one. Authorial idiosyncrasies abound! Again, know the rules, then make the choices that work for you.

graffito mother fucker

I now realize why I avoided discussing punctuation: it is a mare’s nest of a subject. I am going to have to push quotations, brackets, and apostrophes off to next week. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I will try to answer.


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I will try to respond to messages as I am able. At times it may be in the form of a post or a direct email response. Guests who post, I will forward messages addressed to them. It is up to them how they decide to correspond.   — Shawn MacKENZIE – MacKenzie’s Dragonsnest



“Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if “escapist” fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.

If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn’t you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.

As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.”

― Neil Gaiman

neil_gaiman_story_illustration_by_tim baker

Neil Gaiman story illustration by Tim Baker


“Letters to a Young Poet” [Part XVII of XXIX]

rainer maria rilke letters to a young poet COVER

“Letters to a Young Poet”

by Rainer Maria Rilke


Post by Jennifer Kiley

Post Sunday 12th April 2015

RILKE Painting blond

(17th week)

“But perhaps
these are
the very hours
during which
solitude grows;
for its growing
is painful
as the growing
of boys
and sad
as the beginning
of spring.
But that
must not
confuse you.
What is necessary,
after all,
is only this:
vast inner solitude.
To walk inside yourself
and meet no one
for hours –
that is what
you must be able
to attain…”

1 home large photo

One of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Homes

Dvorak, New World Symphony – 2nd Mvt Part 2,

Dublin Philharmonic, Conductor Derek Gleeson

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“Awakening Dreams”


Awakening dreams
Magic practices confuse
Illusions believed

Activates inner feelings
Images emerge

Our inner world is
Infinite descriptions of
Impossible scenes

Believing is real
When minds are demonstrating
Divine mysteries

Physical Universe
Holding with arms for comfort
Expands endlessly

© jk 2015

awakening dreams by donika nikova

Awakening Dreams by Donika Nikova

“Ernest and Celestine” [Movie Trailer US]

“Ernest and Celestine” |Trailer US [2014] Animated

Ernest And Celestine taking a walk

Oscar-nominated for best animated movie. In English.

Deep below snowy, cobblestone streets, tucked away in networks of winding subterranean tunnels, lives a civilization of hardworking mice, terrified of the bears who live above ground. Unlike her fellow mice, Celestine is an artist and a dreamer – and when she nearly ends up as breakfast for ursine troubadour Ernest, the two form an unlikely bond. But it isn’t long before their friendship is put on trial by their respective bear-fearing and mice-eating communities. Fresh from standing ovations at Cannes and Toronto Ernest & Celestine joyfully leaps across genres and influences to capture the kinetic, limitless possibilities of animated storytelling. Like a gorgeous watercolor painting brought to life, a constantly shifting pastel color palette bursts and drips across the screen, while wonderful storytelling and brilliant comic timing draw up influences as varied as Buster Keaton, Bugs Bunny and the outlaw romanticism of Bonnie and Clyde. Bringing it all together is the on-screen chemistry between the two lead characters – a flowing, tender and playful rapport that will put a smile on your face and make your heart glow. Based on the classic Belgian book series by Gabrielle Vincent, Ernest & Celestine is winner of the Cesar Award for Best Animated Feature and numerous festival prizes. (c) GKids

Rating: PG (for some scary moments)
Genre: Animation , Art House & International , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Vincent Patar , Benjamin Renner
Written By: Daniel Pennac
Runtime: 1h 20m