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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  ·  Rating details ·  462 ratings  ·  71 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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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  462 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Dana Delamar
Aug 02, 2013 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
Sep 19, 2014 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.
Aug 07, 2013 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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jan 31, 2012 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
Joana Dimitrova
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-done
I enjoyed both this one and 'The first fave pages' by Noah Lukeman and I can honestly say it has been an insightful reading. Punctuation has never been my strongest suit and this book made me realize I was focusing on the wrong thing. Definitely recommend.
Janean Easley
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I learned some valuable tips in this book.
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, such as 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 fl
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
Oct 23, 2011 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 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.
Oct 11, 2007 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.
Sean Keogh
Thank you, Betsy. This book has reinvigorated my approach to punctuation. The tenth grade doesn't know it yet but they will owe you a big "thank you".
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
A total page-turner. Really.
Kay Sterner
Jul 25, 2008 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.
Apr 22, 2009 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.
Emerson Vieira
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Este é um livro que serve principalmente aos escritores de ficção (notadamente os de contos e romances). Não traz informações sobre a pontuação em trabalhos acadêmicos e científicos, histórias em quadrinhos e crônicas, por exemplo; traz apenas uns cinco exemplos de pontuação em poemas. Em muitos trechos, ele traz uma perspectiva do mercado editorial a respeito de algumas práticas de pontuação mais comuns. O autor diz que a pontuação revela o escritor. Talvez este seja o ponto mais interessante d ...more
Tali Treece
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
In this short book on punctuation, Lukeman digs into the nitty-gritty of periods, commas, semi-colons, dashes, etc. His exposition of punctuation is certainly helpful in and of itself, but what I really love is the way he uses punctuation to close read great literature. With excerpts from authors like Nabokov, McCarthy, and Melville, Lukeman demonstrates how different types of punctuation subtly—and sometimes even drastically—affect a sentence, a paragraph, and even an entire chapter.
Ogi Ogas
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My ratings of books on Goodreads are solely a crude ranking of their utility to me, and not an evaluation of literary merit, entertainment value, social importance, humor, insightfulness, scientific accuracy, creative vigor, suspensefulness of plot, depth of characters, vitality of theme, excitement of climax, satisfaction of ending, or any other combination of dimensions of value which we are expected to boil down through some fabulous alchemy into a single digit.
Daniel St-Jean
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a great primer, and follow-through, to the various forms of punctuation and its usages. I felt that I learnt a lot studying this book. Although I did not complete the exercises, the published-- and unpublished, examples served to illustrate the basis of what Lukeman was writing about. Overall, I felt this was a polished and refined text that is used, with sophistication, to educate the reader and allow them to improve their writing as a whole.

4 stars!
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very helpful handbook. It's not too objective as to be a boring slog, but it's intelligent enough to feel useful.

I'd recommend this for any creative writer looking to up his or her game. I work as a copywriter, and I've already applied some of the things I've read here.
Jan 25, 2013 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
Mar 29, 2013 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
Mar 19, 2013 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
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"You don't want to miss out on this wonderful book"

We always thought we know how to use our punctuation; we might even claim that we are good at it, at least getting it right most of the time. But just that once, you read somebody else's (how about a Mr. ABC) writings and noticed a new usage of the semi-colon! You were so surprised that Mr. ABC actually used the semi-colon right after the magic word "include" to start a long list of miscellaneous grocery items. You smelt something fishy there bu
Jul 20, 2008 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
Megan Anderson
Jul 14, 2012 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
Barbara Newhall
Feb 09, 2013 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
Jan 30, 2013 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.
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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
“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.” 1 likes
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