A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation - Noah Lukeman "In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear you the way you want to be heard." -Russell Baker

Aimed at creative writers (although useful for non-fiction, technical, and business), A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation is an excellent resource, one I highly recommend aspiring writers add to their bookshelves. This is not a manual; this is a guide to considering punctuation before throwing it into work without forethought, using it just because instead of using it as part of an individual style.

Lukeman tackles each punctuation mark in turn, devoting a chapter to each. Sounds boring, I know, but again, this isn't a manual or a grammar school book. Lukeman expects his reader to be more advanced than that; he expects you to already know what each mark is and what it's technically used for. As the title implies, this is a guide to style. And if you're a writer who's investigating tips for developing your own style, then you're most likely advanced enough that you already know punctuation marks and their technical usage. (If you don't, for God's sake start by learning the basics!) You don't need an English teacher assuming you're some kind of idiot, you need a guiding hand beyond the schoolbook definitions that will push you in the direction of better overall writing.

A Dash of Style provides exactly that: guidance towards developing and bettering your writing with the thoughtful use of punctuation. Lukeman emphasizes context: allowing the context to determine which marks to use and where to use them, when one choice would work but another would work better within the text, and when context would render certain ones inappropriate. He also covers things like paragraphs and section and chapter breaks, not technically punctuation but just as crucial to the flow of text. Again, he places much of the focus on context and writing for impact.

A note on the entirety: this is not a boring book. Many excellent grammar and/or style guides can be dry, acting as excellent cures for insomnia, but this isn't one of those. Noah Lukeman keeps the pace quick and to the point, and his writing is engaging. The vibrant text also refreshes, as it never insults the reader's intelligence. God bless him.

A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation is an excellent read and a must-have addition for any writer's collection. And if you read this, I also highly recommend another of his books, The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. Now go! Read! And then write your little hearts out!