|weighing in: the mathematics of punctuation
THE HYPHEN (5% PEAWEIGHT HALT)--the lightest of all punctuation: simply breaks apart flow of individual words
A. compound words--separation--mini-wheats, nineteenth-century poetry
B. Separation of words, according to the syllables, when end of line reached in a manuscript (not used, with computers)
BUBBLEWEIGHT HALT--the 8% apostrophe
A. for use in forming possessive nouns: 's after single nouns or s' after plural nous, or s' after any noun which naturally ends in s.
B. for use to set off slang usage which (when rarely appropriate is used for special verbal effects: e.g., I want to 'rap' with you, Baby!
C. for replacing letters omitted from contraction words: e.g., would not becomes won't, is not becomes isn't, it is becomes it's (but the word its, the possessive of it, does not include an apostrophe so as to clarify its difference from it's as a contraction of it is).
THE COMMA--almost always light, halting the flow of sentences only slightly
A. FLYWEIGHT (15% halt-value)--the voluntary pause comma (providing a delicate pause with a shift of emphasis)
1. Each scene represents something different within nature--divine, or whatever.
2. Rage, against the dying of the light.
B. FEATHER WEIGHT (20% halt-value)--the necessary pause comma (setting off phrases with slight grammar force)
1.introductory modifiers at start of sentence--
a. However, the goods will receive rewards. (sets off introductory adverb)
b. By the light of the silvery moon, Jack and Jill cuddled. (sets off two preposition phrases of description)
c. Going to town, Maybelle met Leo Finkelstein. (sets off participial)
2. inserted modifiers in mid-sentence--(sets off phrase description)
a. Dr. L., the teacher, occasionally displays slight wisdom. (sets off inserted appositive)
b. He demands that, besides talent, students should have discipline. (sets off inserted prepositional phrase)
c. Lola, however, did not want to dance so much as Robertino wished. (sets off inserted adverb)
d. Maybelle, going to town, met Leo Finkelstein. (sets off inserted participial phrase)
3. concluding modifiers at end of sentence--
a. He petted Delightful his favorite horse.--(sets off concluding appositive)
b. The enemies inveterately stalked the forges of Hiawatha, in the wilds of Minnesota. (sets of concluding participial phrase)
c. The townswards-traveling Maybelle met Leo Finkelstein, coming back to the country. (sets off conclusing participial phrase)
d. Brainy Cassandra has her faults, though. (sets off concluding adverb)
C. LIGHTWEIGHT (25% halt-value)--the subordinating clause comma: dependent clause weight is 25%, main clause weight is 55% & conjunction weight is 20%.
1. Socrates obeyed his country, unless it conflicted with God.
2. As she was going to town, Maybelle met Leo Finkelstein.
3. After they ate the apple of sin, Adam and Eve were banished from Eden.
4. Time head me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.
5. Whereas he was coming from town, Maybelle was on her way there.
D. WELTERWEIGHT (50% halt-value)--the coordinating clause (compound sentence comma): each main clause weight is 40%, conjunction 20%
1. Maybelle Deforest was going to town to rob the bank, but Leo Finkelstein had robbed it already and met her during his trip home.
2. Sylvester is a crazy cat in the cartoons, and Pluto is a goofy dog.
3. He did not have a mistress, for he loved his wife.
4. He did not have a mistress, nore did he have a wife; he was a preist.
THE WELTERWEIGHT DASH AND PARENTHESES--always 42% halt-value, emphatically breaking flow of sentence
A. The single dash separates
1. Long emphatic phrases at beginning of sentence, including appositive series
a. Attic fans, window fans, even air conditioners--one of these could not, nor could all together, close out the Saudi Arabian heat.
b. Hopelessly blind to their communication responsibilities--thus are those who refuse to learn grammar.
2. Long emphatic phrases at end of sentences, including appositives
a. She called him a rapscallion--a rascal unworthy or any human respect.
b. He was wounded for our transgressions--crucified by vicious hypocrites.
c. Each scene represents something within nature--divine, or whatever.
d. For some reason, Ruby was unwilling to become pregnant--whether it was because of her pregnancy or because of pity for other beleaguered women.
B. Pairs of dashes or parentheses--emphasize emphatic statements, or appositive word series, which are placed within mid-sentence:
1. And God played with me--can it be true?--a game of Poker. (Anne Sexton)
2. And he explained to me (only the brave would ever understand) the need for valor.
3. Dr. Harris prescribed multiple antibiotics--Amoxicillin, Betrapen--for the pesky ear infection.
4. He said the antibiotics, besides, needed the aid of other drugs (antihistamines, eardrops).
A. WELTERWEIGHT (45% halt-value)--to break apart lists of items which already are subdivided by commas:
1. The menu included Peanut Butter Crepes, with lichi nut stuffing; artichoke hearts, marinated in wine and papaya juice; Wienarachitrol, with dogfood dressing; and rhubarb pie, served with chocolate custard.
2. The nominees are Sissy Spacek, for "Missing"; Jessica Lange, for "Frances"; Meryl Streep, for "Sophie's Choice"; and Julie Andrews, for "Victor/Victoria."
B. MIDDLEWEIGHT (49% halt-value)--to balance independent clauses, suggesting their close relationship, at the same time they are strongly individual statements (related, not equal)
1. Brainy Cassandra has her faults; she also has her virtues.
2. Not only is life a struggle; it is also sometimes a joy.
3. I loved you once in silence; misery was all I knew.
4. I hurt; I hated.
5. The effort began with two people; however, it had much support. (semicolon needed when conjuctive adverbs help balance the two clauses)
THE COLON (quite heavy, for relatively heavy pause)
A. MIDDLEWEIGHT (50% halt-value)--balances independent clauses of equal ideas
1. Louisa is amiable: Louisa, I repeat, is friendly.
2. Johnson says the weather killed Taylor: "Heat, being his foe, baked his face and broke his heart."
B. LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (75% halt-value)--complete full clause and introduces appositive list
1. The nominees are the following: Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Sissy Spacek, and Julie Andrews.
2. I like all the cabbage--like vegetables: Califlower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
THE PERIOD, THE EXCLAMATION POINT, THE QUESTION MARK (100% halt-value)--HEAVYWEIGHT
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