Save a comma

I find myself believing that punctuation can be used differently for fiction and nonfiction writing.

When writing a post that is nonfiction, I feel obligated to write correctly. That is, putting commas in the correct places, avoiding fragments and run-on sentences, etc. In my fiction writing, however, I find myself following the rules much more loosely. Since I’m creating a world that exists nowhere except in my head, it is as if I have the license to write prose that can–at times–verge into something less concrete and more abstract.

Many American writers are ditching punctuation marks that academics hold dearly. Correct punctuation shows clarity of thought, a professor may say. It is proof a student or researcher took his or her job seriously.

In literature, I find such devotion to traditional rules lacking. Authors such as Kent Haruf and Cormac McCarthy don’t even use quotation marks to signify dialogue. I tried that once, and quickly found I wasn’t good enough to pull it off.

But I like a clean page, avoiding as many commas as possible, when it comes to my fiction writing. Maybe I will even be able to forgo quotation marks someday. Periods and the occasional apostrophe are necessities, however. Semicolons definitely are not.