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May 31, 2011

Why So Little Punctuation?

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  • "It's a question of style, baby." McCarthy writes with a unique style. Soon after starting All the Pretty Horses, it becomes apparent that the book has much less punctuation than many books do. The author eliminates quotation marks, changing the nature of dialogue completely.

    'He looked down at Rawlins.

    You ain't sorry you come down here are you?

    Not yet.

    He nodded. Rawlins Rose(page 138).'

    By eliminating quotation marks, McCarthy creates a sparser book. The dialogue has less flourishes, paralleling the barren nature of the desert in Central America. Additionally, the lack of punctuation forces the reader carefully examine every sentence word for word. Without clear punctuation marks dictating when people are speaking, the reader has to pay more attention to the words themselves in order to make sense of the story.

    Moreover, McCarthy uses almost no commas. He creates a lot of 'run on' sentences, using 'and' in place of commas. By doing this, McCarthy stretches out time. When examining these long sentences, the reader slows down in order to take in the mass of information. As a result, some sentences have a slower pacing. McCarthy uses these long sentences to help establish the slow nature of life in the desert.

    " The barn was built on the English style and it was sheathed with milled one by fours and painted white and it had a cupola and a weathervane on the top of the cupola." (page 117)

    By including so much information in one sentence, the reader gains as much detail as possible. The characters spend a lot of time casually observing their surroundings, and long sentences force the reader to do the same.


    status offlinesamawolfe #1 [-]

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    Posts: 11

    (08/16/10 11:43 PM)

    I noticed this, too. I really really really love his voice. It's so easy to get lost in his lavish descriptions of landscape and whatnot. The lack of quotation marks annoyed me at first, but I've gotten used to it. It does help me get inside the story and the attitude of the west more. Also, all of the "and"s keep the sentences moving. Commas, for me any way, sometimes take the excitement from the piece and make it list-y. The "and"s add information, but more importantly, keep the reader interested.
    Make your text more stylish with proper punctuation. Named Numbered Symbol Description - - - en dash - - - em dash ' ' ' left single quotation mark ' ' ' right single quotation mark ' ' ' single low-9 quotation mark " " " left double quotation mark " " " right double quotation mark " " " double low-9 quotation mark ‹ ‹ ‹ single left-pointing angle quotation mark › › › single right-pointing angle quotation mark
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