MET workshops

Signposting the way: using punctuation to improve flow

Punctuation is an often-overlooked yet key element of cohesive discourse. While the basic syntax may be sound and the terminology correct, even the most carefully written text can lack flow. With a clearly practical focus, this workshop aims to create awareness of the role of punctuation as a tool that removes ambiguity, provides balance and improves flow. Writers – and the editors who review their texts – can't afford to assume that readers will fix unsystematic punctuation instinctively. If punctuation provides "traffic signs" that help readers travel from one thought to the next, decisions about placement are surely not based on whim and a given speaker's sense of rhythm.

Facilitator: Thomas O'Boyle

Purpose: To create awareness of the role of punctuation in improving flow. To apply a hierarchical decision-making process that allows translators, editors and other language professionals to prepare texts for publication. To gain insight into the variety of editing solutions that can fix problematic prose.

Description/structure: Participants will learn how to use syntactic signposts to solve dilemmas raised by poor punctuation and provide clear, reader-friendly texts. They will learn to make logical, efficient choices depending on whether texts are for publication or for personal expression. The workshop will be divided into three sections. The first part will present a few examples of texts in which poorly managed punctuation hampers comprehension. We will then look at the many different syntactical pitfalls writers face when preparing their texts. Finally, we will work with hard copy together to solve a variety of punctuation dilemmas, some mixed with other distracting problems that can make it tricky to focus on detail.

Who should attend? Language professionals at any level can benefit from the exchange of knowledge in this session. The examples will be taken from a range of texts.

Outcome skills: Participants will be able to recognize good use and poor use of common punctuation marks and explain the reasons for their evaluation. The workshop will increase participants' confidence when solving dilemmas raised by poor punctuation, enabling them to provide clear, reader-friendly texts.

About the facilitator: Thomas O'Boyle is a freelance translator, authors' editor and medical writer based in Valdemoro, Spain. His MA, from the University of Salford, is in Translating and Interpreting.