National Writing Project

TR 11. Punctuation and the Prosody of Language

By: Wallace Chafe
Publication: National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report
Date: October 1987

Summary: Chafe explores the relationship between what he calls the covert prosody of writing (that which in speech would be elements such as pitch, accents, and rhythms) and the relation of this prosody to punctuation.



The most broadly applicable finding of this study is that most writing most of the time does use punctuation in a way that respects the prosody of written language. Reading aloud and repunctuating are limited ways of making that prosody reveal itself. In the end, however, the most satisfying guidance comes from listening to the inner voice itself. Nurturing that listening can only improve the quality of written language.

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