“Between the Words”: Creating Poetry Out of Punctuation

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As readers and writers, we often are so focussed on the words of a story that we overlook the small little marks that give them meaning – the punctuation. After all, had I chosen anything other than an en dash to insert in that first sentence the entire essence could have changed. An exclamation mark would have seemed a bit more aggressive, while an open parenthesis would have suggested that what followed was more of an afterthought rather than the answer.

Nicholas Rougeux, an artist and self-described “data geek,” is not the first person to acknowledge the importance of punctuation but he is, perhaps, the first to truly celebrate the beauty of these small dots and lines. Taking works from Project Gutenberg, Rougeaux ran through some of the world’s most famous texts and deleted all letters, numbers, line breaks and spaces to leave only the punctuation marks in place and then created this series of posters, titled “Between the Words.”

Poster by Nicholas Rougeux. See more and order a copy here: www.c82.net/work

Poster by Nicholas Rougeux. See more and order a copy here: www.c82.net

Adam Calhoun, a scientist and data visualiser, has taken this concept to a new level, creating bar graphs comparing the punctuation usage by different authors. While this doesn’t necessarily sound immediately appealing, what he discovered was really quite poetic!

By Adam Calhoun:medium.com

By Adam Calhoun: medium.com

Using a Python code (which he freely offers on his website) to remove the words, Calhoun was able to contrast the sentence length and favourite symbols of authors as diverse as Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner.

Adam Calhoun: Punctuation in Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (left) and in Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (right). Via:medium.com

Adam Calhoun: Punctuation in Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (left) and in Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (right). Via: medium.com

More recently, Calhoun has even created heatmap representations of the punctuation usage in these books! What books would you analyse with Calhoun’s code?

About Paperblanks®: At Paperblanks, we believe that art should have a place in all aspects of life. That’s why we follow the artist’s way in everything we do – creating, crafting and releasing designs we believe have the power to touch people. For more about Paperblanks, go to our website at paperblanks.com.

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