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  • Kayleigh

Friday Tip: Playing with Punctuation

Playing around with punctuation can not only change the meaning of a sentence, it can also allow you to shape the pacing and emotional buildup within a scene. Consider the following examples:

✨ I: Meaning ✨

Punctuation’s impact on meaning is a bit more obvious:

  1. A woman without her man is nothing.

  2. A woman: without her, man is nothing.

This is a commonly used example because of how different the two lines read with just the addition of a colon and comma.

Funnier versions of this you may have seen include the innocent "Let's eat, Grandma!" versus the more cannibalistic "Let's eat Grandma." 🐺 👵🏻

✨ II: Pacing & Emotion ✨

Where writers have some more leeway is in using punctuation to manipulate how the reader reads a sentence or paragraph. Short and fragmented sentences can create tension, anger, and urgency, while longer sentences can convey calm or thoughtfulness.

For example:

  1. I didn’t plan on losing and so I unloaded punches left and right. Then, when he blocked his face, I swung at his sides.

  2. I didn’t plan on losing. I punched left, right, left, right. When he blocked his face, I swung at his sides.

Neither a nor b is correct or better than the other.

The difference is that b feels a little more urgent and tense. Adding punctuation and clipping the sentences meant removing a couple of words that were slowing the section down.


When I used to provide more line editing and when I taught, I often reminded the writers I worked with that writing is an art form. It may look a little different, but you can shape the words.

It’s okay to play with the language and get a little messy.

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