Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.
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.
“Because if it were just to hell; if that were all of it. Finished. If things just finished themselves. Nobody else there but her and me. If we could just have done something so dreadful that they would have fled hell except us.”
She was bored. She loved, had capacity to love, for love, to give and accept love. Only she tried twice and failed twice to find somebody not just strong enough to deserve it, earn it, match it, but even brave enough to accept it.