The proof is in the reading (not in the pudding.)


Not very knowledgeable about books and the journey to getting them published, it is never too late to learn about it. While the story or message in the book is what readers are generally interested in, clarity of the story/message must be foremost.  But… there is so much more than just clarity!

I never really knew about all the commas, inverted or otherwise, nor exclamation marks, quotation, or question marks.  I did know a full stop comes at the end of a sentence. I do try and show off prowess by using many marks inappropriately. I hope that by using them profusely I might confuse or fool some readers. I don’t think so.

Only yesterday I learnt that exclamation marks came into being hundreds of years ago. “The exclamation mark was first introduced into English printing in the 15th century to show emphasis, and was called the “sign of admiration or exclamation”.

Hyphens  have a life on their own and worthy of a separate article. In re-reading my forthcoming book ‘Almost There,’  punctuation and exclamation marks are scattered around like confetti at a drunken RSL club wedding or oaths during a Welsh rugby match.

I have been busy with getting rid of many of those marks but have to keep referring to a handy little book, : my grammar and I (or should that be ‘me’?).  !Note the three marks of, 1 inverted comma,  2 the question mark and 3 the closing bracket after just one word!

So, in summing up. It is not just having reasonable word order. The order also has to be maintained in  Stops, Commas, Question marks, Exclamation marks, Colons, Semicolons, Dashes, Hyphens, Quotation marks,  Apostrophes Possessive or otherwise.

Here a bit previously written and posted and now in ‘Almost There.’

“A good friend left a message on our answering service yesterday congratulating us on 50 years of marriage. How did this come about? It only seems like yesterday. We had totally forgotten. We have never stood still reflecting much on wedding anniversaries. We do of course remember each other’s birthdays. Christmases too come and go. The important thing is to get up each day and celebrate that marvelous event more than the one yearly or one in fifty years event.

Here is how!

“How did you sleep?” “Very good, how about you?” “Oh, very good, just went to toilet just once, I think it was at 4.30, or no, it might have been a bit earlier, perhaps 3.30.” “I slept very deeply again afterwards, ‘like an angel’. “You don’t look like an angel, get a haircut today, you look wild, more like a Hottentot.” ” Yes, but then I have to wash my hair, take a shower too.” “So what?” “Have you got a problem, taking a shower?” “No, not that, but it is still too early.” “You are not too early with being banal.” “Yes, I know, feel free! It is not too late. Many would find you very attractive, and you’ve got lovely eyes.” “Get #u&&et.” “How’s the coffee dear?” “Strong enough?” “Yes, it is a nice one today.” “It’s Lavazza, ground. We are on the last kilo.” “OK, next when it is on special we get two kilo’s again.” “Yes, at Farmers Market.” “I had a stomach cramp during the night.” “I might have eaten too much of the hummus.” “Yes, I noticed you were hoeing into it last night with the crackers too. Were you hungry?” “You’re a very healthy girl, you eat more than me!” “Not as healthy as you will be, emptying the red again.” “Well, you know after the drive from Sydney, one needs a bit of a relaxation.” “You say that every night”. “Yes, I know, but we don’t take any medication, you’ve got to have something”! We don’t smoke, don’t take any medication, live frugally, still have most of our teeth. So what if we drink a bit?” “True, dear, especially if it is a good one”. “I might go upstairs and check the blogs. Have you looked yet?” “No, I haven’t. I am still tired.” “Oh, there you go again, meckering as usual. Cheer up.” “I am cheery, have you looked at the lilies, another one has opened up, there are now three open”. “Yes, I noticed, make another coffee and take it upstairs”. “Alright dear, I will.”

And that is the answer to how fifty years have passed. (And all too quickly).”

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29 Responses to “The proof is in the reading (not in the pudding.)”

  1. lifecameos Says:

    it can be fun playing around with writing odds and ends for fun, not because we have to use them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. auntyuta Says:

    I find writing is all about communication. Talking can of course be very stimulating too, and writing in a way often feels to me like talking. It does not really matter so much if nobody has time or inclination to listen to what I try to say. If I write my thoughts down instead of just talking, I can try to express myself with taking care in choosing the words that hopefully mean exactly what I want to communicate. Writing or talking is great fun in any case, but even more so if one gets some response!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, that is right Uta. And you are very generous in responding.
      In anything that one wants to express, fear is the common enemy. Letting go is helpful and undoing parts of our upbringing that stifled free expression and suppressed us in our feelings and how to convey them. (I sound a bit pompous here.)


      • auntyuta Says:

        Not at all, Gerard. You point out upbringing in connection with fear. I relate to this very well. I feel for younger people it is perhaps more difficult to overcome this fear.
        Being that much older now, I somehow find it easier to overcome certain fears . . . .

        Liked by 1 person

  3. shoreacres Says:

    If you can believe it, one of my little New Year resolutions involves punctuation. There are so many exclamation marks flooding through the writing on the web, they’ve been slowly creeping into my writing: like crabgrass into a lawn. It was affecting comments more than posts, but, still. So, I resolved to weed them out. As either F. Scott Fitzgerald or Mark Twain said (it’s been attributed to both), ““One should never use exclamation points in writing. It is like laughing at your own joke.”

    The best book on punctuation I’ve read is Lynne Truss’s, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” The cover illustration shows two pandas. One is departing, stage right, with a pistol in its hand. The other is on a ladder, carefully painting out the comma, thus creating “Eats Shoots and Leaves.” Very clever, and makes the point.

    And the book is great fun, if you happen across it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carrie Rubin Says:

    Proper punctuation is another great area where editors come in. Just when I think I’ve learned the recommendations, they change. For example, short introductory phrases no longer need a comma unless it’s needed for clarification. I’ve also learned that semicolon use is frowned upon. My last editor nipped the few I had and turned the combined sentence into two. But I’m still letting one or two slip through in my current work-in-progress. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It becomes complicated. Thank goodness for the birdfeeder where I dump most punctuations. The sparrows seem to like commas. The larges birds love the exclamations. The local vet warned about question marks. They can get stuck in their craws.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mary Cathleen Clark Says:

    Then from punctuation, it’s on to subject/verb agreement, misplaced modifiers, dangling modifiers, using proper verb tense, consistently. My list could go on and on. lol
    In school, I made excellent grades in English, but when I began writing, I had to brush up on my grammar again. And I still have to refer to reference books quite often.
    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Cathy. Still so much to learn and so little time. I often reflect in Dutch and in my dreams always am in Amsterdam and their spoken Dutch. Punctuation existed in Greece since the 4th century. They know a thing or two about grammar as well.
      I left school at 15 but apart from copious use of exclamation marks, punctuations, bad grammar and obnoxious use of syntax, I have survived till now. (albeit with the use of lower partials.)
      I have solved the rejection by birds, mainly the parrots, of my question marks. Helvi suggested feeding them into my worm-farm.
      We have a bird-feeder on top of our Mexican Chimeney. It fits perfectly over the flue at the top and is made of terracotta which compliments the garden.

      I wondered why the question marks were scattered all over the place, obviously being rejected by the parrots. The worms are very happy now. Two birds with one stone.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    We are all guilty. We want to make sure the other fellow knows how much we like./hate what was said. One of the best books on punctuation I read last year was “Between You and Me” by Mary Norris from the New Yorker Magazine. It had a lot of humor.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Big M Says:

    Your example is fabulous. I’ve read it before, but it always makes me chuckle.

    I guess we can be grateful that we were schooled in the olden days, when one learned enough English, maths, history, geography, science, etc to make it through the world of work and leisure. Kids today seemed to have learned enough to operate a ‘ smart’ phone, then nothing more. Just more apps, gifs and mp3.

    It certainly can be quite cathartic, writing it all down, fiction or fact. Glad to hear that the editing is progressing!!


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Big M. There is almost more work in pre-editing than anything else.
      I remember teachers being very suspicious about the introduction of ball-points. We still had ink-wells and were always happy to get a new dipping pen that used to need fastening onto the pen-holder.
      Now, I find perfectly good ball points in the local park together with half-full soft drink bottles.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Big M Says:

        I think Mr Biro developed the ball point in 1932, or ’37. Took a long time to catch on. I never used ink wells, thank the Goddess, I would have been covered in ink all day, much like me eating a curry these days. I guess the young don’t need ball points anymore, it’s all sms and voice mail. I’ve even noticed people doing the weekly shopping with the phone on all of the time, discussing Dutch vs baby carrots, tea bags vs loose leaf, and oh, there’s no bratwurst…..


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes Big M, I have overheard people at Aldi discussing shopping on their mobiles to husbands and wives. “I am now at the butter division, shall I buy butter or would you prefer margarine?” Or, “They are selling a toilet lid that lifts you upwards by about half your body wait.” Shall I grab one?

        There is so much going on while shopping now.


  8. Curt Mekemson Says:

    Reading your last long paragraph, Gerard, I was reminded of Jack Kerouac and “On the Road,” pure stream of consciousness writing. –Curt


  9. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    We seem to have passed forty years having that same conversation. On punctuation: I had already written a PhD thesis when I wrote my first novel. After a few years of sending the novel to agents for rejection, I finally took the advice of a friend in publishing and sent it off to a Literary Consultant (expensive analysis). I got a 17-page report and an annotated manuscript back. Judiciously sandwiched between slices of praise, was a devastating critique of my grammar, punctuation, story structure, language etc. I bought English for Foreign Students and started all over again. There is a neat, classical little book called The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (first published 1935). It is a great read and very useful reference and very short.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Hilary. Helvi urging me to read up about grammar and punctuations. I seem to have just rattled on. But, I am learning. I would not like to get a devastation critique at this stage. I am heartened by the idea that readers have to enjoy the writing above all else.
      I am going through the lot now, letter by letter. I wrote about pigeons and included ‘fan-tale’. It should have been ‘fan-tail’. I did not pick it up till it was pointed out.


  10. elizabeth2560 Says:

    Your opening phrase passes the test “not very knowledgeable about books”. A “fail” would have been to add in an apostrophe (book’s). So many people do not understood what that punctuation mark is for and throw it in ‘just in case’.


  11. Julia Lund Says:

    When I first started writing, I had exclamation marks all over the place. Now I try not to use them as they seem to be frowned upon. A lot of punctuation comes down to preference, rather than correct or not. In my opinion …


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