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A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
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A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  327 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
The first practical and accessible guide to the art of punctuation for creative writers. Punctuation reveals the writer: haphazard commas, for example, reveal haphazard thinking; clear, lucid breaks reveal clear, lucid thinking. Punctuation can be used to teach the writer how to think and how to write. This short, practical book shows authors the benefits that can be reape ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published April 1st 2006)
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On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Best Books on Writing
180th out of 538 books — 1,014 voters
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary by Merriam-WebsterThe Oxford English Dictionary by J.A. SimpsonThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne TrussOxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary by Albert Sydney Hornby
34th out of 236 books — 37 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,016)
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Dana Delamar
Aug 02, 2013 Dana Delamar rated it really liked it
An excellent book on punctuation, including the use of paragraph, section, and chapter breaks. This book would be especially useful for writers who are just starting out. The book has a literary fiction bent, but the rules Lukeman espouses are useful for all writers. Note that this is not a "how to" book and is a bit light on examples; Lukeman assumes you have a decent grasp of grammar and mechanics and are instead looking for guidelines to turn that basic understanding into artful application.
Daniel Ionson
Aug 30, 2015 Daniel Ionson rated it liked it
Short, but with some unique insights on the mess called punctuation. I especially liked his exploration of the subjectivity of punctuation use.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 14, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Interested in Wrting, Especially Fiction Writing
This book is unique. A book about punctuation, but it doesn't deal with grammar; this isn't a book about rules, but about creative choices, about how the use of commas, periods and semi-colon builds a narrative, how to use colons, dashes, parenthesis and quotation marks with flair, and why you should use punctuation such the question mark and the exclamation point with caution--a book for the fiction writer, not a grammarian. It even treats such subjects as the paragraph and section break in cre ...more
Aug 15, 2013 Cari rated it it was amazing
"In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear you the way you want to be heard." -Russell Baker

Aimed at creative writers (although useful for non-fiction, technical, and business), A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation is an excellent resource, one I highly recommend aspiring writers add to their bookshelves. This is not a manual; this is a guide to considering punctuation before throwing it into work without forethought, using it just because inst
Robert Beveridge
Noah Lukeman, A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation (Norton, 2006)

Noah Lukeman's three writing guides (The First Five Pages, The Plot Thickens, and this one) are wonderful little oases of good, old-fashioned common sense in a twisted thicket of how-to-write tomes. They are small, to the point, and quietly sure of themselves. They can be; the information contained therein is impeccable. If you haven't discovered Lukeman yet and you're an aspiring writer of any fictional stripe (and
Steven Veach
Nov 13, 2011 Steven Veach rated it really liked it
I love it when two writing books disagree on something. Such as, one book argues you should never use "quotes" around a single word to make it stand out, as if it were italicized. Then the next book states this is perfectly fine, as long as you don't abuse it. This is why, when I want to learning something new, I gather together a dozen or more books on the subject and read through them, taking notes, etc. You can't take any one person's opinion as fact on anything.

Overall, though, A Dash of St
Janett Wawrzyniak
Jan 05, 2013 Janett Wawrzyniak rated it really liked it
This book is for creative writers. This means writers of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry, and screenplays,including anyone seeking to write well, for business, school or any other endeavor. This book offers punctuation as artistic expression. As a means of impacting the content in a most profound way. Punctuation can influence the reading experience, to craft a finer work. This book will teach you to become sensitive, enabling you to be a better writer. It is not about making you a better g ...more
A good reminder that punctuation is our friend in the midst of creative texts. Of course, the book seems aimed at an intro class and there was next to no discussion of poetry, but it was an interesting enough book to pick up from time to time over the course of a month. If I taught fiction-writing (or creative non-fiction), I'd totally assign this book.
Nov 06, 2007 Jennet rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: any writers
This is a great book for anyone who writes on the side or for a living. I never thought about punctuation before in my writing - I just relied on experience and intuition - but this book really breaks down the creative and functional uses of different punctuation. I will definitely reference this again.
Jun 18, 2009 Marco rated it really liked it
I am finally comfortable using a variety of punctuation in my writing, and it was all from this book--how cool is that?
It just made punctuation interesting, an art instead of a bunch of rules.
Lune Lenore Violette
Mar 20, 2015 Lune Lenore Violette rated it really liked it
Am I ashamed that I fervently enjoyed reading a book about punctuation? A little. But not ashamed enough to keep my mouth closed. As geeky of a book as this holds too much greatness not to be shared. In "A Dash of Style," Noah Lukeman details all the how-to's of punctuation use, teaching the secrets of keeping your readers enthralled, your audience in suspense, and your superiors impressed by your mastery of the semi-colon.

This book is so witty and clever it makes me want to tear up my last ess
Kay Sterner
Jul 25, 2008 Kay Sterner rated it it was amazing
This book takes a refreshing spin on punctuation -- I think it freed me from my overly-strict 5th grade grammar teacher.
Aleksandr Voinov
One of my top five authors on writing. Eye-opening guide on punctuation.
Mar 05, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
A total page-turner. Really.
Paula Cappa
Jan 14, 2015 Paula Cappa rated it it was amazing
I've been an editor for some 15 years (and a writer) and of all the grammar and punctuation books I have on my shelf (about 12 now), this one is the best. Lukeman goes further than just telling you the uses of punctuation, further than just sentence examples of how to use punctuation. He gives you the thinking and the philosophy about punctuation. His chapter on paragraphs and section breaks is outstanding. If you want to learn the art of punctuation, no one can teach it to you better than Noah ...more
Sep 07, 2015 Yaaresse rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, but once I committed to it, I felt like I should go ahead and finish it. It's a quick read.

My tentatively positive first impression quickly slid into "meh" before disintegrating into thoughts of "this time could be spent doing something more interesting, like sorting rubber bands by color."

Obviously, I'm not the audience. That's probably the first problem. The second disconnect is that, while I believe the English language is fluid (and that inclu
Apr 14, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Learning the rules of punctuation is important, but for creative writers, there's one more step: learning how to apply those rules stylistically. Lukeman addresses this, even going so far as to mentioning certain types of punctuation that authors should never use in creative writing. He doesn't touch on apostrophes at all because the rules that apply to them aren't up to interpretation, but he talks about everything else--even paragraph breaks. In fact, when it comes to section breaks, specifica ...more
Jan 25, 2013 notabattlechick rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-work
Though the first paragraph of the book declares it is not meant for "historians," I kept reading--after all, Lukeman meant that it wasn't a history of punctuation, not that historians who fancy themselves writers shouldn't read it. A quick read, well worth the time for writers who feel stuck or abused by copyeditors. Rather than focusing on rules and usage, Lukeman focuses on what punctuation (specifically, periods, commas, semicolons, colons, dashes and parentheses, and paragraph breaks--which ...more
Katherine Cowley
Oct 05, 2014 Katherine Cowley rated it it was amazing
If you want to learn the rules of punctuation, don't read this book. This book has little about the rules. Instead, this is a book about how creative writers can use punctuation (and as a result, sentences) for stylistic and/or rhetorical purposes. It's by literary agent Noah Lukeman, and the guy has his credentials. Not only is he the president of a literary agency, but he also has represented authors that have won everything from the Pulitzer Prize to the American Book Award.

Lukeman says that
Gayle Swift
Jun 25, 2014 Gayle Swift rated it it was amazing
Writing mechanics aren't the most exciting endeavor but mastering them is essential for our work to be respected as professional. I just finished "A Dash of Style, The Art and Mastery of Punctuation." I rate this little gem 5*. It gets the job done using brief, clear examples and clearly demonstrates how proper punctuation enhances good writing. Well worth the read.
Barbara Newhall
Feb 09, 2013 Barbara Newhall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Wow! A book on punctuation. By Noah Lukeman. The bookstore had an entire book on punctuation by this master of the dot and the dash. My heart lept.

It was called "A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation. I bought it.

I’m a grammar geek, and ever since I read Lukeman’s treatise on the comma — the comma! — in the March/April 2006 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle, I have been a fan. A devotee. No, let’s face it, a groupie.

This man Lukeman knows what to do with a comma. Not to mention a pe
Jul 20, 2008 Angela rated it really liked it
This was a gift from Diane Croft, on my leaving National Braille Press for Pearson Education.

This book was written for creative writers. It goes through each of the common punctuation marks, and describes, not the rules for when and how to deploy them, but why you might want to use them. It describes the pace and feeling suggested by the various punctuation marks, and gives insight into how a reader might take one versus another choice. It gives examples of how well-respected writers have used p
Len Joy
Oct 14, 2015 Len Joy rated it it was amazing
An excellent book for writers and for readers on the ART of punctuation. It's made me think more strategically about my punctuation choices - how subtle changes can make a world of difference in meaning. Witty and well-written.
Megan Anderson
Jul 14, 2012 Megan Anderson rated it liked it
This isn’t packed full of punctuation rules; it’s a guide for creative writers on how to use punctuation to better convey meaning. It is also a great tool for bloggers looking to improve their writing.

This isn’t about the rules. Lukeman even gives examples of famous novelists that break the rules to great effect. This is about understanding when punctuation can do so that it works for you. This book helped me to understand why I do what I do. For instance, I get parentheses happy on the blog, bu
Tori-Lynn (TheReadingFox)
I really like the way Noah Lukeman explains the many creative uses of punctuation. This is not a book for academic, formal writing. But for someone who is a crafter of stories or an experimenter of language, I highly recommend this read.
Sep 24, 2012 Bill rated it really liked it

A writer has presicious few tools with which to add inflection to prose. Unfortunately eons ago someone decided this tiny tool box should only be used in precise fashion with no exceptions. Noah Lukeman flies in the face of this saying that these tools should be considered as much more flexible. In short, each punctuation should be considered to have a certain length of pause in a sentence. Thus the writer can use which ever punctuation provides the length of pause desired. To reinforce this he
Joshua Spotts
Mar 31, 2014 Joshua Spotts rated it really liked it
Lukeman's book is a clear, descriptive overview of punctuation in the context of style with a bit of humor to make some of the hard truths go down easier.
Jul 10, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
Good book about how to make the most of punctuation in your fiction writing. Would definitely recommend to other writers.
Mar 20, 2013 J.C. rated it liked it
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
For the most part this book is for people who don't have time to read a lot of books, yet seriously want to be a writer. A lot of the tips in it about punctuation you can learn from reading literature. However, i didn't do any of the exercises (i marked them though, for future use), and I did learn things here and there so it's still a good book to catch up on the world of punctuation with. I still recommend it, it's just....not mind blowing, is all.

But then again, it is a book on punctuation.
Aug 23, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-skills
This is a very entertaining book on punctuation, which is a phrase I never expected to write.
Unlike some "nuts and bolts" books, this one approaches the use of various forms of punctuation on a creative level, examining the effects of punctuation more than the "rules" of when to use the various marks and spaces.
The book is clearly written, informative, and useful to anyone who wants to write any form of prose. The only thing which kept this from getting a fifth star was that the exercises at th
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In addition to being an active literary agent, Noah Lukeman is also author of the best-selling The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile (Simon & Schuster, 1999), which was a selection of many of Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers and is part of the curriculum in many universities. His The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life (St. Martins ...more
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“There is an underlying rhythm to all text. Sentences crashing fall like the waves of the sea, and work unconsciously on the reader. Punctuation is the music of language. As a conductor can influence the experience of the song by manipulating its rhythm, so can punctuation influence the reading experience, bring out the best (or worst) in a text. By controlling the speed of a text, punctuation dictates how it should be read. A delicate world of punctuation lives just beneath the surface of your work, like a world of microorganisms living in a pond. They are missed by the naked eye, but if you use a microscope you will find a exist, and that the pond is, in fact, teeming with life. This book will teach you to become sensitive to this habitat. The more you do, the greater the likelihood of your crafting a finer work in every respect. Conversely the more you turn a blind eye, the greater the likelihood of your creating a cacophonous text and of your being misread.” 0 likes
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