Guest Author - Susan D. Bates
I decided to review the Associated Press Guide to Punctuation (2003) by Rene Cappon to determine if it would be a helpful resource for college students. I selected this book for review because it focuses specifically on the use of punctuation. Proper use of punctuation is an important component of writing. Because many college courses are writing intensive and demand a higher level of writing skill than expected in high school, mastering strong writing skills, including proper punctuation use, is required for college success. Punctuation usage rules are tricky; therefore, having a guide to refer to is essential for all students.
This book is based on the Associated Press Stylebook. Stylebooks are books that serve as guides for the writing in a particular academic field, organization or other group. The Associated Press is a newsgathering organization. Their stylebook guides the writing of many other news organizations throughout the Untied States.
Upon review of Associated Press Guide to Punctuation, I found his book to offer simple and straightforward rules on how to use punctuation based on the Associated Press Stylebook. I believe it would be very helpful for anyone uncertain of when or how to use a particular punctuation mark or who needs a quick, simple solution. However, the straightforward solutions offered by this book can be a drawback as well for some college students because punctuation usage rules are not universal. Punctuation rules vary among types of writing. This book does not, nor was it intended to, cover all of the types of writing expected throughout college classrooms.
The use of the serial comma is an example of how this book may provide rules that conflict with other reference guides. Serial commas separate items in a series, such as in the following sentence: He invited Mary, Rachel, Janet and Samantha to the party. Commas separate the items in this series. Should a comma have followed the name Janet prior to the word "and" Writing styles vary on the topic. However, on page 40, of this book the author states, "No coma goes before the final conjunction." (The conjunction in the example sentence is the word 'and.') There is no mention of writing styles that would use a comma before the word 'and' in the example sentence. This is because the intent of this guide is to give specific instructions based on only the Associated Press Stylebook. However, a student in a psychology class (especially an upper-level class) is likely required to follow the stylebook produced by the American Psychological Association. This stylebook states that a comma should follow the conjunction in a series.
Despite the drawback of only explaining the Associated Press's take on punctuation, I believe this book offers many benefits to college students. It is small, lightweight, and easy to read. It could easily be carried in a book bag to be used as a reference when studying. Students who have declared a college major should use the stylebook of their academic field. However, this book can make a handy supplement because it covers punctuation points not covered in many stylebooks. It could also be helpful for a student who has not yet committed to a particular academic field.
This book was purchased by the author of this review using her own funds.