Monday, December 8, 2008

Let’s Hear It For The Period!

by Joyce DiPastena

At our last CyberScryber meeting (that’s the new online ANWA chapter group, in case you don’t know), we had a wonderful lesson on the meaning and importance of the all too often taken for granted Period. At the end of the lesson, we were given some exercises to try. One of these exercises suggested writing one entire page without using a period. A second exercise encouraged us to write one entire page where each of our sentences was made up of only six words. I haven’t tried the second exercise yet, but on Sunday afternoon I decided to try the first one. I sat with my feet tucked up all cozy on my living room couch, and wrote out the following in long hand.

The incident below is based on a true experience, although I might have taken a little literary license with the stamping feet and puddle of water. ;-) By the way, for those who might not know, IGI stands for the International Genealogical Index maintained by the Church’s Family History Department.

Exercise:

Janet threw open her apartment door with a bang, stomping the Salt Lake City snow free of her boots, not even caring for the melting puddle of water her action caused on her tile entryway because she was still steaming internally at what she’d discovered while checking the IGI at work, the old computer program that allowed family history researchers to look up temple work that had been performed for their ancestors, only someone had made a horrible mistake with Janet’s ancestor who was only kind of a sideways ancestor since she was Janet’s aunt and still very much alive and should not have had her temple ordinances available for public display, especially since that information was wrong, wrong, wrong because someone had mistaken her aunt’s birthday, stuck an “18” instead of a “19” in front of her birth year, and now her aunt was not only listed in the IGI as being a hundred years older than she was and born before her own parents, but also had suffered the indignity of having her baptism and endowment redone, after she had already done them for herself, and despite Janet’s repeated efforts, she had been unable to get the information corrected and removed, because live people’s information is not supposed to be available in the IGI for privacy reasons, and Janet had had it up to HERE with overzealous, incompetent family history researchers who couldn’t get their facts straight and ended up turning live people into dead ones and sticking them in the IGI.

So, what do you think? Gives you a little more respect for that tiny little period, now doesn’t it? What I wrote above was a straight-through first draft, and obviously would have been much improved by a generous sprinkling of periods. (Not to mention some judicious rewording and reordering, but then, that’s what second drafts are for).

This was a great exercise, and actually turned out to be more fun than I expected. I’d like to challenge each of you to give it a try. If you’d like to share your results, feel free to copy and paste your effort into the comment section of this post. No cheating with colons or semi-colons, mind you, although as you can see from my exercise, commas are liberally allowed. I’d love to see what you come up with!

5 comments:

  1. Wow, Joyce! I was positively blue in the face by the time i read the whole thing...lol...I didn't realize I hold my breath when I read sentences...as though I were actually saying it myself. That is a great exercise! The story is amusing, too, btw...thanks for the smile!

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  2. It works great. I had never realized before that my frustrations are page long sentences! The mood was perfectly outlined by the continuous stream of thought. Those IGI errors, how frustrating. Time to log onto the new family search and get them fixed. Maybe a topic for some short sentences.

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  3. Joyce, I love it! it actually turned out to be a really fun piece. In writing as in life, we need to take a breath now and then don't we? And that's all I have to say PERIOD.

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  4. What a clever idea, I really enjoyed it but found it totally alien since part of my job is to make sure the periods are in the right place.

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  5. I really liked that demonstration paragraph without periods, and I'll tell you why. I think it perfectly captures both the action and the mental state of the character, who can only be female, because of the overwhelming flood of issues that women deal with when they are frustrated and overwhelmed.

    This seems to show me that the use of the period must be as carefully considered as anything else in writing and that the conscious choice to avoid it or use it can actually enhance various emotional effects conveyed in the writing.

    So now I want to see your demonstration of a paragraph using only six word sentences. :-)

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