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of its pain or lassitude, – let him, if now ignorant of the subject, never rest contented till he is able both to understand the principles on which Punctuation is based, and to bring them into full practice. The remarks just made have the strongest claim on the attention of youths learning the art of type-setting; many of whom, stimulated by a love of change or by false views of independence, soon break loose from those steady and regular habits which are necessary for mastering the difficulties of any occupation; moving about from one employer to another, without having a disposition or sufficient time to attain a knowledge even of the first principles of the craft by which they are to earn a living. But if desirous of perfecting themselves in the various branches of typography, one of which we have shown to be the art of Punctuation, it is of the greatest moment that they resolve to remain with a person whom they can regard as a friend as well as an employer; and receive from him, or at their leisure hours from the study of books designed for the purpose, such instruction as will conduce to their improvement, and render them, when of age, competent to discharge, with honor to themselves and with satisfaction to others. the duties pertaining to their profession. If a knowledge of Punctuation is admitted to be requisite to the setter of types, there will be the utmost reason for regarding it as indispensable to a reader of proof-sheets. Besides the multiform duties devolving on or expected from him, of correcting and improving the work of compositors, which is seldom, if ever, a faithful representation of the “copy;” of rectifying the orthography of inexperienced writers, and drawing the attention of others to errors in grammar and construction, into which the most accurate will sometimes fall, - the professional corrector is generally required, in the existing state" of authorship, to devote a great part of his attention to the proper insertion of points, and thus to present to the public eye in a readable condition what would otherwise be an ill-digested mass of letters and words. When it is considered that he has not unfrequently to perform this task amid doubts and difficulties arising from manuscript almost illegible, it will be seen how necessary it is for correctors of the press to possess that kind of knowledge which is so easily within their reach, and which at present forms an essential and a peculiar feature of their calling, — an accurate knowledge of the theory and practice of Punctuation. It would not be right to expect from them, even if they were better remunerated, perfect accuracy in their work; but, so long as they hold so responsible a situation, their ignorance of this branch of their profession should be regarded as inexcusable.
It may be, and has been, objected to the study of this art, that it is not subject to any fixed or determinate principles; that scarcely two writers follow the same mode of punctuating sentences. Where one author or printer uses a comma, another would insert a semicolon; and, where one thinks a semicolon ought to be employed, another prefers a colon, if not a comma. One teacher embarrasses the learner with an additional pause (the semicomma), by giving it “a local habitation and a name; ” while a different one discards the colon altogether as a useless point. Some grammarians would
unfeelingly lop off the dash, as an excrescence on a printed leaf; but others, again, are so partial to its form and use as to call in its aid on every possible occasion. The objection has, on purpose, been strongly stated. But might not similar objections be adduced against the orthography, the etymology, and the syntax of the English language; against, indeed, the general principles of English Grammar P Might it not be demonstrated, that grammarians and lexicographers differ in spelling, in pronunciation, in the classification of the parts of speech, in modes of derivation and of construction, and in the position of relatives and adverbs? Might not a plausible treatise be written against grammatical principles, – as plausible, but just as illogical and unconvincing, as are the common and startling objections against a system of Punctuation? Might it not be shown, that Johnson and Lowth, Blair, Murray, and Crombie, have attacked the dicta of others, and have had their own attacked in turn? Might it not be proved, that kings and queens, statesmen and historians, poets and essayists, nay, even professed grammarians, have written false English, and violated the most generally acknowledged canons of syntax? But surely it would not be a fair conclusion to draw, from this diversity of opinion and from the employment of inelegant or incongruous English, that there are no determinate principles in the language; that there is no authority to which an appeal can be made ; that authors may send forth their compositions into the world, without any regard whatever to law or usage. Neither is it, we contend, a legitimate conclusion, that, because some writers dis
agree in their system of pauses, and others point their works at random, therefore Punctuation is too trifling to demand serious attention, — too unsettled to be treated as a branch of science, or practised with any degree of uniformity as an art. . The writer, then, of the present work can have no hesitation in asserting, that the art of Punctuation is not more varied or changeable in its character than that of composition; and that its essential principles are as fixed and determinate as those canons in syntax, which, though sometimes violated by our best authors, are universally acknowledged to be indisputable. Diversities in the application of these principles will no more prove that modes of punctuating sentences are altogether arbitrary, than diversities in styles of composition will demonstrate that the labors of grammarians to ascertain the laws of language must go for nought, and that every writer may take whatever liberties he chooses, in opposition to reputable usage. As various modes of expressing a thought may be justifiably used, when they do not affect the principles of grammar; though, as respects beauty, elegance, or force, one mode may be preferable to another: so also different methods of pointing a sentence may be allowable, when they do not violate the fundamental laws of Punctuation; though they may be objectionable or otherwise, just as they are less or more calculated to please the eye, and bring out the sense of the passage. Perhaps one reason why Punctuation has been generally undervalued or neglected is, that grammarians have devoted so little of their attention to the subject. The books, too, professedly written to elucidate its principles, are, so far as have been observed by the writer of the present work, deficient either in an explanation of exceptions and difficulties; in examples and exercises; or in rules and remarks, illustrative of the diversified functions of the notes of interrogation and exclamation, the marks of parenthesis, the dash, the apostrophe, the hyphen, and the quotation-marks. For though these may be regarded as minor points, when compared to others of a more grammatical mature, yet they occur so frequently that no work on Punctuation which passes them over with only a few brief and hasty remarks can be considered practically and generally useful. Another cause of the neglect and misapprehension to which correct Punctuation is subject, arises probably from the false light in which it is regarded. Many persons seem to consider points as being the representatives only of rhetorical pauses; as showing merely those places, in the utterance of a composition, at which time for breathing is required; as indicating the definite proportions of the stops made in reading aloud. Hence not a few writers and authors point their manuscript exactly as they would recite it, in accordance with their power of enunciation, with the quickness or slowness of their perceptions, or with their particular views as to the influence of pauses on the minds of their hearers. Elocutionists themselves disagree in respect to the precise cessations of the voice which should be made in delivery. Granting, however, that there were no differences of opinion on this subject, and that all good speakers would make the same pauses in the reading of any given discourse, it might even then be easily shown, that the points in common use would not be sufficient for rhetorical