Punctuation marks are the unsung heroes of writing. They determine the story’s rhythm and clarity, but are doomed to play second fiddle to the author’s words. Inspired by a series of posters featuring literary punctuation, scientist and writer Adam J Calhoun decided to compare how different literary figures throughout history have wielded punctuation. He stripped down novels like Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, and Ulysses to analyze the differences between authors’ styles. And there is a stark visual difference. In the photo above, Cormac McCarthy’s concise Blood Meridian is on the left while William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! is on the right.
Here’s a section of Pride and Prejudice:
Calhoun also charted the ratio of different punctuation marks in novels, visualizing James Joyce’s total lack of quotes in Ulysses, Ernest Hemingway’s love of dialogue, and more. Take a look at how punctuation use has changed over the years:
He also charted the number of words per sentence in certain novels, and made heat maps of the punctuation usage. See all his visualizations on Medium, and if you’re code-savvy, you can make similar posters yourself.