Archive for the ‘wordiness’ Category

Punctuation–Too much? Too little? Misplaced?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

I received a newsletter this morning from a business strategy company that could use a refresher course on where and where not to sprinkle punctuation marks.  Here is one paragraph from an example discussion in that newsletter:

Bill was frustrated, as he talked to Sue, his Sales Leader.  Bill had been; "smiling and dialing for dollars", for hours with no tangible results to show for his efforts.

Punctuation is supposed to help the reader wade through the writer's thoughts in an efficient manner.  However, in this paragraph, the punctuation hinders the reader.

1. There is no need for a comma after FRUSTRATED because the dependent clause (AS HE TALKED TO SUE) comes after the main clause (BILL WAS FRUSTRATED).

2. I agree with the comma after SUE because HIS SALES LEADER renames Sue (appositive).

3. I can think of no plausible reason for the semicolon after BEEN.  It just does not need to be there.

4. The quotation marks around SMILING AND DIALING FOR DOLLARS are correct because this is a common "sales speak" expression, but the comma should be inside the quotation marks, right after DOLLARS–if the comma is needed.  The absolute rule (at least for now) is that commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks.  However, in this sentence, I see no good reason for the comma.

5. Finally, I think WITH NO TANGIBLE RESULTS can stand on its own without adding TO SHOW FOR HIS EFFORTS–that is implied.

I would edit this paragraph this way:

Bill was frustrated as he talked to Sue, his Sales Leader.  Bill had been "smiling and dialing for dollars" for hours with no tangible results.


I would hope my readers agree that this paragraph is now much cleaner and clearer.  Stay tuned.  In the coming days, I will add several more comments about wording and punctuation in this newsletter.