The Punctuation of Driving Pt. 1
There are many things that make driving a unique experience. It isn't that unique though, because I can come up with many ways that different driving experiences can relate to writing. Here's some thoughts! Hopefully they'll help your writing; please don't use them to help your driving. Also, if you've never driven before, learn to do that before you read this. If you don't this won't be very helpful.
. (Period)--This punctuation goody is a staple in writing and acts like a staple of the road, namely, the stop sign. Both say that something different than what we had previously been dealing with is coming up ahead, so a little space should be given to accomodate the change.
; (Semi-colon)--You know when you're driving and there's a stop sign ahead but there's no one else around so you almost stop at the stop sign and keep going? That's a rolling stop. Semi-colons say that you should slow down, almost stop, because there's something different coming ahead but it's not so different that you need a stop sign (aka period).
, (Comma)--There are different ways to use a comma in writing, so let's look some of them separately...
, after introductory idea in a sentence-- Use a comma after an initial phrase in a sentence the same way you would a merge ramp. The merge ramp is a short road that connects with a larger highway to begin your road trip, and an intro phrase with a comma is a short idea connecting to a larger thought, beginning the journey of the sentence.
, with a thought then another ,-- Aren't slight detours due to road construction the best? I love when I'm driving and there's road construction so I have to swerve to a different lane for 500 yards and then swerve back. This is the same idea, but with language. The main part of the sentence is the road. An idea inserted into that sentence that goes along with it but not really (like the asphalt that they're laying; it belongs to the old road, but it sort of doesn't) is inserted, so you set off the insertion with commas. The first comma is you swerving out of the way of your somewhat-related idea; the second comma is you swerving back into the flow of your original thought. In the process stay out of jail; please don't injure or kill any highway workers.
, before a quotation-- You're driving along when all of a sudden you go blind! You're doing seventy on the highway so the person behind you grabs the wheel and starts driving because you obviously can't. When you're writing a sentence and, part way through, need to use someone else's idea, you insert a quotation. The comma before the quote (i.e. "Moby Dick begins with the iconic phrase, 'Call me Ishmael.'") shows the point where you stop driving and someone else begins."But the quotation marks do that!" you say. "The quotation marks are your hands waving around in panic, showing that you're not doing anything. The comma shows where the back-seat driver took the wheel" says I. (Note: There are times when you will use a colon before the quote instead of a comma. In this case, the person behind you has literally thrown you out of the car in order to take over. Instead of a nice segueway between you driving/writing and that person, there is a more abrupt change [i.e. "Moby Dick begins with a phrase that has become iconic: 'Call me Ishmael.'"])
(Note on Commas: This doesn't exhaust all the ways to use a comma. There are lots. However, these are some main ways that can be useful to know.)
New Paragraph!-- This isn't really punctuation, but it's still important. Say you're driving to Las Vegas from Tampa Bay. You're somewhere in Louisiana when, all of a sudden, God picks your car up and places you in Texas. You're still on your exact same route, but now you're one step further due to that little jump. That's a paragraph. You have your main topic for your paper (route from Tampa to Vegas), you're writing and explaining an idea that supports your topic (being in Louisiana), and then you're done arguing that point and so move on to the next (the jump to Texas). You're still going to the same place, but your argument/idea has changed just enough that you're no longer in Louisiana. Now you're in Texas, and now you have a new paragraph.
There is a lot of information dealing with punctuation, so we'll let this sink in. Look for the next punctuation/driving installment shortly and, until then, keep writing!