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periods, be attributed to their comparative ignorance of the use of points; this ignorance compelling them, in order that their meaning might not be liable to be misunderstood, to be careful in the arrangement of their words. The excellence of the ancients in the composition of a period, is no reason for the disuse of points : it is an authority against the abuse of words ; but it would be absurd (as Matthæi observes) not to avail ourselves of the use of points, because they were unknown to the ancients.

In drawing to a conclusion I will add that hitherto, English Grammarians have obscurely treated of Punctuation : some of them because they have used the same words to express different meanings ; Bishop Lowth for instance, uses the words colons and commas, as well to convey the idea of members and fragments of sentences, as of their points : others because they only used the words in a secondary meaning; Lindley Murray, for instance, uses the words colon and comma only to signify points. Punctuation is to the generality of men a matter of obscurity, and many attempt to conceal their ignorance under the phrase, Punctuation is merely a matter of taste : whether a writer shall compile his work in longer or shorter sentences, whether he shall illustrate the principal proposition of a sentence, by one or by many illustrative clauses, may be a matter of taste; but he cannot change their nature by pointing: the great use of pointing is to facilitate the reading of a composition.


No. I.

In any thing relating to English Grammar, the authority of Bishop Lowth cannot pass unnoticed: should any one think too little notice has been taken of this author in the body of this work, it will perhaps be thought that the defect is remedied by giving all that he says upon the subject.

The Edition which has been used is a corrected one, published by Dodsley and Cadell in 1775; to a point and a letter has the work been followed :


Punctuation is the art of marking in writing the several pauses, or rests, between sentences, and the parts of sentation double of the Colon; the Colon is double of the Semicolon; and the Semicolon is double of the Comma. So that they are in the same proportion to one another, as the Semibref, the Minim, the Crotchet, and the Quaver, in Music. The precise quantity, or duration, of each Pause or Note cannot be defined; for that varies with the Time; and both in Discourse and Music the same Composition may be rehearsed in a quicker or a slower Time: but in Music the proportion between the Notes remains ever the same; and in Discourse, if the doctrine of Punctuation were exact, the proportion between the Pauses would be ever invariable.

The Points then being designed to express the Pauses, which depend on the different degrees of connexion between Sentences, and between their principal constructive parts; in order to understand the meaning of the Points, and to know how to apply them properly, we must consider the nature of a Sentence, as divided into its principal constructive parts; and the degrees of connexion between those parts, upon which such division of it depends.

To begin with the least of these principal constructive parts, the Comma. In order more clearly to determine the proper application of the Point which marks it, we must distinguish between an Imperfect Phrase, a Simple Sentence, and a Compounded Sentence.

An Imperfect Phrase contains no assertion, or does not amount to a Proposition or Sentence.

A Simple Sentence has but one Subject, and one finite Verb.

A Compound Sentence has more than one Subject, or one finite Verb, either expressed or understood; or it consists of two or more simple Sentences connected together.

In a Sentence the Subject and the Verb may be each of them accompanied with several Adjuncts; as the Object, the End, the Circumstances of Time, Place, Manner, and the like: and the Subject or Verb may be either immediately connected with them, or mediately; that is, by being connected with some thing, which is connected with some other; and so on.

If the several Adjuncts affect the Subject or the Verb in a different manner, they are only so many Imperfect Phrases; and the Sentence is Simple.

A Simple Sentence admits of no Point, by which it may be divided, or distinguished into parts.

If the several Adjuncts affect the Subject or the Verb in the same manner, they may be resolved into so many Simple Sentences: the Sentence then becomes Compounded, and it must be divided into its parts by Points.

For, if there are several Subjects belonging in the same manner to one Verb, or several Verbs belonging in the same manner to one Subject, the Subjects and Verbs are still to be accounted equal in number: for


Verb must have its Subject, and every Subject its Verb; and every one of the Subjects, or Verbs, should or may have its point of distinction.


“The passion for praise produces excellent effects in women of sense."-Addison, Spect. No. 73. In this Sentence passion is the Subject, and produces the Verb: each of which is accompanied and connected with its Adjuncts. The Subject is not passion in general, but a particular passion determined by its Adjunct of Specification, as we may call it; the passion for praise. So


Copulative or Disjunctive, are not separated by a Point: but when there are more than two, or where the Conjunction is understood, they must be distinguished by a Comma.

Simple Members connected by Relatives, and Coinparatives, are for the most part distinguished by a Comma: but when the Members are short in Comparative Sentences; and when two Members are closely connected by a Relative, restraining the general notion of the Antecedent to a particular sense; the pause becomes almost insensible, and the Comma is better omitted.

EXAMPLES: Raptures, transports, and extasies are the rewards which they confer: sighs and tears, prayers and broken hearts, are the offerings which are paid to them."— Addison, ibid.

“Gods partial, changeful, passionate, unjust ;

Whose attributes were rage, revenge, or lust.”Pope. “What is sweeter than honey ? and what is stronger than a lion?"

A circumstance of importance, though no more than an Imperfect Phrase, may be set off with a Comma on each side, to give it greater force and distinction.

EXAMPLE: “The principle may be defective or faulty; but the consequences it produces are so good, that, for the benefit of mankind, it ought not to be extinguished."—Addison, ibid.

A Member of a Sentence, whether Simple or Compounded, that requires a greater pause than a Comma, yet does not of itself make a complete Sentence, but is followed by something closely depending on it, may be distinguished by a Semicolon.

But as this passion for admiration, when it works according to

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