What is the History of Punctuation?

The Free Cozy Grammar Newsletter with Marie Rackham and Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma

Sometimes knowing a little history can go a long way in helping us understand a subject.

Last month, we shared an excerpt from the Basic Cozy Punctuation Course in which Marie talked about where punctuation comes from.

(If you've just signed up for our newsletter, you can read last month's newsletter on our website.)

"Most punctuation," she explained, "was invented by publishers." She then showed how punctuation imitates the pauses and voice inflections in speech.

This month we wanted to continue exploring the history of punctuation, not only because the topic can be so interesting, but also because it can help us immensely in learning how to use the dots, lines, and squiggles of punctuation easily, freely, and joyfully.

Take a peek at this month's first free excerpt from the introduction to the course.

History, Poetry, and Punctuation

As a poet, I find Marie's emphasis on clarity of meaning and on the inflections of our voices to be particularly important. So important, in fact, that I wanted to explore the topic in greater depth as part of my own introduction to the Basic Cozy Punctuation Course.

You can watch the complete introduction. Not only do I walk us, literally, through the history of punctuation, I also share what I believe to be the secret of poetry.

And what does the secret of poetry have to do with the history of punctuation? Take a peek and find out!

Poetry to Read Out Loud

I hope you enjoyed our walk together through the history of punctuation.

Even more than that, I hope you've found that knowing the history helps you see the study of punctuation in a new light.

Punctuation isn't just a collection of rules you have to memorize. It is also the art of suggesting the meanings carried in our voices.

Knowing where punctuation comes from can also help you to appreciate writing and poetry that may use punctuation in more unusual ways.

Here, for instance, is a famous and beautiful poem by E. E. Cummings that hardly uses any punctuation at all!

The secret to understanding and enjoying it is to read it out loud. If you'd like, you can also listen to E. E. Cummings read it himself on the Poetry Foundation website. In fact, I'd highly encourage it!

Here's the poem:

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Thank You!

Before I finish, I wanted to express our appreciation for the lovely notes that people have been sending us about their experience with Marie's Cozy Courses.

We had a parent write, for instance, "You have helped me give my daughter the gift of a love and zeal for learning we couldn’t find before."

Nothing could make us feel better about continuing to honor Marie's legacy than to receive notes like that. If you and your family have had a good experience with Marie's courses, please don't hesitate to let us know. It means the world to us.

Thanks so much for joining us this month, and we'll see you again soon!

Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma



Marie's Language Consultant
The Cozy Grammar Series of Courses