This book is for those of you who have to write at work and want clear, commonsense guidance on punctuation. It concerns the usages that are simple, useful, and appropriate in workplace writing, where the chief goal of any document is to convey information as efficiently as possible. Other sorts of writing may seek to enthrall, beguile, amuse, or contribute to the body of human knowledge. But busy executives are not hoping to be enraptured or moved to giggles by an audit report. They want to know, right away, whether they need to take action. And one reason why corporate policies aren't written in Shakespearean verse is that readers of policies are neither seeking nor expecting a literary experience. They simply want to know, in the clearest language possible, what their rights and responsibilities are.
Certainly, in the writing we do at work, our readers deserve this “clearest language possible.” I think it's healthy to take pride in your writing, and sensible to care about it, but wise to realize that the main aim of style in workplace writing is to make things easy for the reader. I'm going to show you how punctuation can contribute to simplicity of style. In practical terms, the marks are nothing more than tools for tightening the nuts and bolts of the airy stuff we call meaning. They're as unglamorous and mundane as any collection of wrenches and screwdrivers—and once we get rid of the stupefying half-truths and fallacies about them, they're just as easy to use.