Penguin Guide to Punctuation (R.L. Trask)

Penguin guide to Punctuation

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My Star Rating: ****

Pages: 156

First Published in 1997

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have decided to return to the world of study albeit from home in my own time.  This is not a revelation for family and friends who know me well; my father would probably be saying, if he was reading this, what took you so long?  I have been told on more than one occasion that I am a habitual learner: I am simply not happy unless I have a textbook in my hand and an exam to sit at the end.  Well, what might shock them is that, today I started and I am happy to say I am completely bamboozled.

That’s right, bamboozled.  As I write this I am so self-conscious that I feel I might re-read my words several times over just to make sure that I have got everything correct.

Why?  Well the bright spark within me thought that I would undertake some learning that would help me hopefully with my future career, and also with my current blogging.  (I have just revisited this sentence three times to see if the grammar is correct and I am still questioning myself).

The reason for this pause…the reference book I have read today.  The Penguin Guide to Punctuation has a lot to answer for.  Even the fact that placing a title within quotation marks is now classed as old-fashioned is news to me: italics it is going forward.

I always considered myself articulate with an ability to correspond well using the Queen’s English: however, after today I am not so sure.  (Please note the colon after ‘English’ and before ‘however’.  Apparently, after all these years, I have just realised that you should never use a joining comma before ‘however’: but other comma types are still allowed to follow this rule).

For some people this would not cause them any concern but not only do I have a GCSE and an A-Level in this subject I also have a degree.  Maybe I was simply asleep every time we mentioned grammar and punctuation.  I truly believe that my English teachers had my best interests at heart but why did I never learn some of the basics?

I have opted to complete a Proofreading course in the hope that I can then progress with a career in the publishing industry but today my esteem has been severely battered.

Grammar: is it important?

Well clearly for me the answer is yes.  If you would like to improve your understanding of punctuation for your blogging, if for no other reason, then this is definitely a book to pick up.

At just 156 pages it is not a tedious textbook that will haunt you for months; it could be read in a matter of hours.  If you do pick it up though remember that the things you have been taught at school may be challenged.

Did you know that the comma is not a simple comma?  There are actually four types of comma.  There is a difference between a hyphen and a dash and I won’t even mention what I now know about compound modifiers.  Confused?  Welcome to my world.

This book also goes on to look at the rules for apostrophes, quotation marks, italics and boldface.  Until reading this I never knew that rounded brackets were called parentheses or that the dots I use to break up a quotation (…) are referred to as ellipsis.

Whilst it may sound like I dislike this book, in truth, it has opened my eyes up to how little I know about the English language even though I have studied it for years.  No wonder it is classed as one of the hardest languages to learn.

If you would like to improve your writing skills, especially if you would like to publish some of your work, this book could help you.

For those of you who have already mastered the art of grammar and punctuation I am sure I have completed several sins within this blog post.  If that is the case then please highlight them to me so that I can improve my understanding further.


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