Punctuation Mark Tally

Okay, It already counts the frequency of words and what not, why not do the same for punctuation marks. It would make draft revisions much easier and fluid if you could get an idea if you might be over using semi-colons, colons, commas or em dashes.


Interesting idea. It left me wondering how good a yardstick comma counting would be or how I would gauge when the numbers were indicating “overuse”.

So, having jotted up a script to do the counts and fed it some text, what should I make of the fact that that text had on average three commas, seven periods and one m-dash in a hundred words.

fellow scriv user

Well that depends on your writing process. For writers like myself, the first draft is usually a hot mess and from there it is a steady journey of refinement. Now one method of refining comes from restructuring sentences. A quick scan for say, semi-colons, em-dashes , or colons, could be used to as a sort of yardstick to gauge how much more refining a particular scene or chapter needs. Much in the same way the existing word statistics give you a hint where you might be over using a particular word or phrase.

Going from first draft to manuscript is not unlike going from llump of clay to artisan vase. You’ve probably heard the old adage: when you see a semi-colon, kill it. In many cases, every semi colon is an opportunity to make two strong sentences from one moderate sentence.

Being able to select a chapter and get a quick count of you semi colon usage is a good way to ball park how much refinement you need. same thing with commas when taken in conjunction with periods. If you wind up having 3 commas for every period in a block of text, that might not be so bad. If, however, you wind up having 6 or more, it’s likely a sign you’ve been using the infamous comma-splice and creating run on sentences.

In thinking, it would also be nice if you could also search for and count the occurences of certain phrases or patterns. All writers have little bad habits-- phrases that we over use or fall back on, something like that and the punctuation counter would go a long way to helpinga write make those last few tweaks.

now as to your question gr-, that depends on what you’re going for. Depending on the style and effect, you may want to increase the number of periods to create more sentences , say if you were trying to giv the impression of increased pacing, or decrease the number of periods to slow things down… When taken per hundred words, things get interesting but again it depends on what your style is and the effect you’re going for. I’ve heard it said that things like semicolons should at most be used once every 1000 words, and colons no more than one per 2000.