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 learn a new approach to improving cohesion in complex texts. To use a hierarchical decision-making process that allows editors to prepare texts for publication. To gain insight into the variety of editing solutions that can fix problematic prose.

Description: 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. The participant will learn how to use syntactic signposts to solve dilemmas raised by poor punctuation and provide clear, reader-friendly texts. Using a decision-making hierarchy, participants will learn to make logical, efficient choices depending on whether texts are for publication or for personal expression.

Structure: The workshop will be divided into three sections. The first part will present a few authentic examples of text made difficult to understand because of poorly managed punctuation. Then tasks that focus on new information will let us work through a hierarchy that shows punctuation in a syntactical light. Finally, we’ll work with hardcopy together to solve a variety of punctuation dilemmas, some mixed with other distracting problems that can make it hard to focus on detail.

Who should attend? Editors and translators at any level can benefit from the exchange of knowledge in this session. The examples will be taken from a range of technical 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.

Pre-meeting information
Punctuation can fascinate
Are you familiar with Lynn Truss’s best-selling book on punctuation? If not, click the link to enjoy a hilarious excerpt from Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

The following references may also be of interest:
Stephen de Looze. Slash the Slash – or, The Art of Not Being Oblique. The Write Stuff.

About the facilitator:

Tom O’Boyle is a freelance translator, editor and language facilitator based in Madrid. His MA, from the University of Salford, is in Translating and Interpreting.

What participants have said about this workshop: 
“Very interactive and not too demanding. Also friendly. Tom is a great speaker and knows his stuff.”
“Interesting, informative and lively.”
“This workshop was extremely useful for me both in the immediate and long term.”

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