Submitted by Dyske on August 20, 2009

Is Punctuation Part of “Mechanics”?

According to my research, punctuation is part of “mechanics”. If so, is it redundant to say, “punctuation and mechanics”?

I do see many instances of people using “punctuation and mechanics”. For instance, I came across an article written by an English professor entitled “Common Mistakes of English Grammar, Mechanics, and Punctuation”. If punctuation is indeed part of mechanics, then this title itself would be a mistake ironically.

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it all depends how you define mechanics.

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I'd never heard of mechanics being used in this way before (I think it's mainly American - actually the whole idea of writing schools is pretty American). But a quick look around suggests that some good writing websites, such as Grammarly.com, Grammar.ccc.net and The Owl at Purdue University do indeed distinguish between the two. For them, mechanics seems to refer to things like like sentence structure, spelling and capitalization, the use of numerals and other symbols such as italics, etc. Incidentally, apostrophes and hyphens seem to belong to mechanics rather than punctuation in this definition.

http://www.grammarly.com/handbook/mechanics/
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/4/

Other websites, however, such as Grammar.about.com, Time4Writing.com and the University of Minnesota, include punctuation under mechanics.

You pays your money and you takes your choice!

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To me, as a Brit, mechanics has nothing to do with the study of English.

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@Skeeter Lewis - As Brits, there are some who run writing courses who might disagree with you, in line with one of the definitions of 'mechanics' at Oxford Dictionaries Online - "The way in which something is done or operated":

"Postgraduates today, at least in the UK, experience increasing pressure to publish in ... These can range from issues to do with the mechanics of writing for publication." - Glasgow University

"The mechanics of writing"- University of York Computer Sciences Dept

"Mechanics of Writing a Literature Review"- uk-student.met

"Style and the Mechanics of Writing" - University College London

"Introduction to Mechanics of Writing (3 credits)" - City College Norwich

"on the mechanics of writing (e.g. spelling, punctuation and grammar) " - the Centre for Academic Writing at Coventry University

"Other students require specific assistance with the mechanics of writing." - Royal Literary Fund

The reason we don't hear much about it is that we don't have the same tradition of university writing schools that America has. That's partly why the MA course in Creative Writing at UEA, set up in 1970 and led by Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson, was so revolutionary. It was only really in the nineties that British universities started to introduce writing schools.

American university writing school websites, such as the OWL at Purdue University, currently celebrating its 2oth anniversary, can be a great resource for anyone wanting to do any kind of writing, not just creative writing, or to check grammar, punctuation rules etc.

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/

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