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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

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  255 ratings  ·  51 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
ebook, 208 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published April 1st 2006)
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Dana Delamar
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.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 14, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
"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...more
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...more
Steven Veach
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...more
Janett Wawrzyniak
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
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...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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Kay Sterner
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.
A total page-turner. Really.
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
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
Kathy Cowley
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...more
Gayle Swift
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 Falconer Newhall
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...more
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...more
Megan Anderson
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...more

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...more
Joshua Spotts
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.
Good book about how to make the most of punctuation in your fiction writing. Would definitely recommend to other writers.
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....more
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...more
This is a wonderful book. I felt that the author used analogies well to clearly explain the subtle nuances between punctuation marks. I feel like I can take the author's ideas and take my students' understanding of punctuation to a new level.

I especially enjoyed the chapters on colons.
Great guide to punctuation for the creative writer. Not only does Lukeman cover the rules, but he showcases how some well-known writers intentionally employ non-standard usage. He's a proponent of punctuating organically, sparsely, and mindfully. For my editing work, his section on commas was worth the price of the book. (In a nutshell: omit commas unless they're needed for clarity or for particular effect.)
Lukeman makes the art of punctuation tangible and easy to grasp. He makes it seem not so much like a discipline, but more like an entertaining bag of magician's tricks; conjuring up creative uses for periods, commas, semicolons: I won't reveal any more. If you're a creative writer suffering from punctuation fright, this is definitely the book for you!
Jinxi Caddel
Jan 04, 2010 Jinxi Caddel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: creative writers
Recommended to Jinxi by:
Noah Lukeman makes punctuation fun. He doesn't lay out rules for punctuation like other books I have read, but rather helps you to assess if you are using each mark properly in terms of frequency and context. He uses excellent examples and keeps the whole tone upbeat, instead of making you feel like an inept "punctuater."

An easy and fun read.
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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
More about Noah Lukeman...
The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life How to Write a Great Query Letter: Insider Tips & Techniques for Success How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent The Tragedy of Macbeth Part II: The Seed of Banquo

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