Rhetorical punctuation and the spoken word

Earlier this week my friend Nina, who studies English Language at Glasgow University, introduced me to the concept of different types of punctuation: rhetorical and grammatical. It was rather an aha! moment for me.

About a year ago I did a performance and presentation course with Alex Gillon. I learned a lot that day, but at times I got confused. Alex would suggest removing or adding commas, not where they should be to separate clauses or lists, but where whoever was reading paused, or breathed. All of my commas were grammatical and changing them to fit the way I spoke felt odd.  Saying that, I did start to punctuate text aimed for reading differently. Yup. I made rhetorical punctuation my friend.

This Sunday, I’m reading the story I practiced with Alex at Illicit Ink Underground. It’s called Mouth, but needs a better title. Face, maybe. It is the first piece I’ve punctuated specifically to help me perform it. Fingers crossed, it’ll help me get the story across.

(Of course, I’ll also be standing well anchored, breath deeply, talk slowly – but clearly – and exaggerate certain words. And make eye contact with the audience at the beginning and end. Just as Alex told me.)

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