I realize I cannot save the whole world from poor punctuation, but in the matter of what we editor types call “direct address,” proper punctuation is quite easy to master. The principle here is simple. If you’re addressing someone by name, set if off with a comma. This is, again I say, easy. For instance:
“Happy Birthday, Jennifer!” (Not “Happy Birthday Jennifer,” no matter how many times we’ve seen it that way on Facebook.)
“Good morning, world!”
“No, officer, I didn’t realize the speed limit was only thirty-five miles an hour.”
“Would I like a Krispy Kreme doughnut? Yes, ma’am!”
See how simple it was to set off all those names and titles with a comma or two? Easy peasy.
This week, however, I signed up to join a restaurant’s loyalty program and nearly choked when I read the notification that popped up. It said, “You’re in Angela!” Grr. Grr. Grr. That’s the sound of me gritting my teeth. The message should have read, “You’re in, Angela!”
Gentle reader, the only person in this house to whom the words “You’re in Angela!” may accurately be addressed is my husband. And on the lovely occasions when those words happen to ring true, I trust he has not the slightest inclination to check any computer notifications … if you get my drift.
So there you go. It’s not “You’re in Angela” but “You’re in, Angela!”
Yes, my friends, punctuation matters.
Do you have rules for your writing? I don’t, but after coming across an Authors Publish article on 35 writers’ “Rules for Writing,” I’ve been thinking of creating a list of my own favorite writing rules.
Some of these I’ve heard before, such as Elmore Leonard’s famous, “Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” If only it were that easy!
Some of these rules are ones I’ve heard and chosen to ignore, such as the advice of Steinbeck (and others) to “never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.” I mean to simply get the words down, but then I notice a typo or a paragraphing issue and, bam, I’m off editing before I can help myself.
One author rule that I do follow, and religiously, is to read, read, and read some more. In fact, this is probably my favorite writing rule. Why? I have at least two books under way at any given moment, and in recent years, I’ve begun taking notes on every single book I read, the good and the bad. Good books teach me what to do. Bad books teach me what not to do.
And if those aren’t enough rules for you, feel free to check out the rules of these 35 writers for yourself by clicking on the link above. Do you have a favorite writing rule? I’d love to hear it!