David Crystal’s latest book Making a Point, which is about punctuation and its history, was reviewed recently in The Guardian (see here). The reviewer describes it as ‘a learned and subtle book that amuses as it instructs, and instructs as it amuses’. According to Crystal, the original purpose of punctuation marks was as an aid to reading aloud; it was scribes who first used them to signal pauses and intonational effects. Grammarians and, later, printers adopted the marks and tried to develop a system for their use. The comma, semicolon, colon and full stop were once regarded as precise measurements of a pause – a full stop was worth four commas.
Obsolete or outdated punctuation marks are included in the book: the asterism (⁂), once used to draw attention to a particular passage in a text, the dinkus (three consecutive asterisks, which may be used to separate sections of text), the pilcrow (¶), a paragraph marker, the caret (^), a spacing marker, the diple (>), used in margins to draw attention to something in the text, the manicule (☞), which has a similar purpose, and the fleuron (❧), an ornamental flower-like symbol used to divide paragraphs.
To read the review, click here. If you are interested in apostrophes, I have written on those before (click here).