This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
Punctuation is a matter of the utmost importance in every species of literary composition; without it there can be no clearness, strength, or accuracy. Its utility consists in separating the different portions of what is written in such a manner that the subjects may be properly classed and subdivided, so as to convey the precise meaning of the writer to the reader. It shows the relation which the various parts bear to each other, unites such as ought to be connected, and keeps apart such as have no mutual dependence.
It is much to be lamented that so little attention is paid to this important subject. As there is no positive system of punctuation to direct the writer, the modern editions of good authors should be carefully studied, in order to acquire the leading principles of the art. The construction of sentences may be examined, and the mode adopted of dividing them attended to with considerable advantage.
One cannot expect, perhaps, in this manner to become an expert in punctuation, but may grow sufficiently familiar with its essential elements to make no serious errors. The mode of placing punctuation marks permits of considerable latitude, and it is advisable not to be too profuse in their employment. The use of the comma is frequently very faulty through carelessness in this particular, dividing parts of sentences which naturally cohere, and being dropped in the centre of a phrase in which it is absurdly out of place. The natural halting points for the reader, or slight breaks in the sense, should be duly considered, and a mark placed in consonance with the degree of this break. The comma and the dash do duty with many as the only elements of punctuation, the latter being much over used, through a desire to escape the necessity of considering the proper mark required.