Punctuation – A Writer’s Magic Wand

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 2.29.04 PMPunctuation can do amazing things for your story.

In fact, punctuation tools are a writer’s friend, a writer’s magic wand.

Punctuation helps create the mood or tone of our stories. It helps us get the response we want to what we have written. It allows us to control the way a reader thinks and reacts to our work.

Punctuation is not just about rules. It’s there to help the reader know how to read what we have written. It helps them immerse themselves in the experience of our story.

Here’s how:

  1. Full stops tell the reader when to pause.
  2. Exclamation marks tell them when to pay attention!
  3. Paragraph breaks make a reader stop and think about what they have just read. This helps them absorb and recall important information.
  4. Talking marks help the reader know exactly who is speaking. So it helps them get to know people they are reading about, and understand their place in the story.
  5. Our sentence breaks help create the mood of the story. For example, short, sharp sentences create tension, but long lyrical ones can help us picture a setting.


Long sentences create atmosphere

After an hour or so, the rocky ridges and snow-covered cliffs gave way to thick forests so deep that there was no sunlight except for narrow stems of gold that filtered between the rows of tall trees. *

Short sentences create tension

Everything happened in a split second. Austin didn’t have time to react. He barely had enough time to realise that the cougar was flying towards him.

Talking marks and line breaks make it clear who’s talking

“You saved that man’s life.”
The boy stopped running. “Henry, his name’s Henry.”
“You saved Henry’s life.”
The boy shrugged. “We take care of each other.”
The man took the boy’s arm gently, as if to stop him running off again.
“I know somebody who can help you,”
The boy felt a spark of hope. He didn’t know how they would survive the Paris winter. *

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.35.12 PMPunctuation tips

  1. Read your work out loud and listen to where you pause. When you pause for breath, that’s where you need a comma or full stop. Or get someone else to read your story for you and listen to where they pause.
  2. Every time a different character talks or does an action, start a new line with this new speech or action.
  3. Break your work up into paragraphs. This makes it easier to read and helps the reader to stop and think about the piece of text they have just read, and pay attention to important information.can

If you want to be a writer, remember that punctuation is your magic wand, and can turn your work from something good into something great!

Happy writing 🙂


* Writing passages used in this post are excerpts from my new book, K9 Heroes, to be released by Scholastic Australia in August 2017.


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