I don’t know if any of you have read the book Pinky Pye. It’s a cute little story by Eleanor Estes, which concerns the Pye family’s adopted kitten Pinky, who happens to have a unique talent: she can typewrite.
Throughout the book, Estes treats us to hilarious passages from Pinky’s typewriting. These are all essays on how to do cat things, such as playing games with humans. But what’s most delightful to me is what Pinky taught me about punctuation.
You see, being a cat, Pinky doesn’t have the most conventional ideas of grammar. She prefers the dollar sign ($) to the exclamation point (!) because she thinks it’s prettier. She lets Mr. Pye put in the commas. And she’s fond of writing sentences that consist of a single word. This inspired me to take a closer look at my own use of punctuation.
Now. That’s a pretty effective little device, isn’t it? Pinky overuses it, but notice the pace you get with it. It makes you pause when you see it. The “sentence” makes everything so much more conversational. I love it!
And that’s why I sometimes will write things like these:
Perhaps there’s a more proper way to do this, but in my opinion, this kind of unconventional punctuation is very clever when used in moderation. As I said, Pinky does it far too often and it gets old (though that’s played for humor in the book), but you don’t have to be tiresome with this idea.
And it’s not limited to simply creating a single-word “sentence.” You can use this basic concept to… trail off.
…trail into a thought.
Or stop short—
And so on, and so on. All of these create a pace. Perhaps this is more easily seen in screenwriting, where the structure affects how the writing is visualized, but you can effectively implement it into a novel or other writing as well.
There’s just one caveat here. Make sure somebody else reads your clever new punctuation pacing before you unleash it on the world. Sometimes we writers are just too creative for our own good, and nobody understands our little winks and nods at the humor of grammar. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but be certain it works before you make it a crucial part of your style.