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4.4.3. Punctuation

4.4.3. Punctuation

a) General

Again, remember that the original punctuation is a click away. Your modernized punctuation can generally be a good deal lighter than the more formal punctuation employed by nineteenth-century editors; lighter punctuation probably approximates more accurately the habits of early modern English writers, and leaves more open to the reader the varying possibilities of interpretation in the text. As elsewhere, the MLA Handbook is the basic guide.

b) The punctuation of the copy text

Do not preserve the punctuation of the copy text when it conflicts with modern usage (e.g. "?" in place of modern "!"; brackets for vocatives; the colon merely indicating a pause). On occasion, however, you may wish to retain your copy text's punctuation for the sake of its dramatic or rhetorical significance. Your response to the punctuation of the copy text will be conditioned by your theory of that text's transmission. You should collate any change in punctuation that may involve a change in meaning.

c) Specific usages

d) Some recent studies

For a useful and comprehensive standard of reference as to what constitutes "modern practice," see, in addition to the MLA Handbook, Randolph Quirk, S. Greenbaum, G. Leech and J. Svartvik, A Grammar of Contemporary English(New York: Seminar Press, 1972), 1053-81.

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