Famous novels, broken down by punctuation

Princeton scientist Adam Calhoun decided to strip the words from his favorite texts to look at the punctuation alone, and noticed a few significant differences among great works of literature. Pictured below, for instance, is a passage from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (on the left), compared with one from William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!

Calhoun also surveyed the frequency of various punctuation marks in several different books. He found, fittingly for Ernest Hemingway’s famously straightforward, declarative style, that A Farewell to Arms is short on the exclamation points and generous with the periods. And the oft-misused semicolon seems to get less popular over time; comparePride and Prejudice (originally published in 1813) with Blood Meridian (1985).

Additionally, Calhoun turned his findings into “heat maps” by representing periods, question marks, and exclamation marks in red, commas and quotation marks in green, and semicolons and colons in blue.