The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
by Noah Lukeman

Publisher:  WW Norton and Oxford University Press

Pub Date:  April, 2006

Format:   Hardcover

Brief Description
The first major book on punctuation as it can be applied to creative writing.

Foreign Sales
          * UK (Oxford University Press)
          * Brazil (Portugese)

Visit the official site:     www.adashofstyle.com


 “A DASH OF STYLE is the contemporary Book on the subject. It puts plunks down everything you need to know about punctuation in one place where you can find it."
--Carol Bly
legendary writing teacher and author of many critically-acclaimed books, including Beyond the Writers Workshop (Knopf)

“A DASH OF STYLE reinforces the notion that punctuation is an essential aspect of fiction (as well as other creative genres). It is not only instructive in terms of how punctuation can be used, which in itself makes it worth reading, but it demonstrates (often with the use of fine examples drawn from great works of literature) how much punctuation contributes to the true character of a piece of writing. It is a terrific book. In fact, it's flawless.”
--John Smolens
Professor of Creative Writing at the MFA Program at Northern Michigan University, and author of many critically-acclaimed novels

visit the official site:


“Lukeman’s writing always struck me as being clean. Clean as in elegant.  But this time, more so. A DASH OF STYLE has a gorgeously direct and confidently-clarified writing style. This is so rare. There is a basic wonderful genuineness and honesty to the book, and plain real intelligence. The tone of the body of the text is strong and muscular, yes muscular. It's not an "advice" book, it's a how-to, a real how-to. I especially loved the section on paragraphs and section breaks. I'd love to use it in a workshop.”
--Ellen Cooney
teacher of creative writing at Harvard and MIT, and author of many critically-acclaimed novels

“I finished A DASH OF STYLE in two sittings. It is very lucid, wonderfully written, and flexible. It explains simply, giving clear, concrete examples, both from the quotidian and from great literature. The sections on the colon and semicolon are the best I’ve ever seen. It's also a damn good read, as well as being pithy, elegant, smart, and absolutely unpretentious. The writing is lively and vivid throughout. Nabokov said somewhere that if you pick up a line of prose and it tingles, then you know it's alive. The prose tingles throughout, and we never feel we’re reading a book about punctuation at all. Best of all, it never condescends to or makes the reader feel stupid. It’s wise, funny, entertaining, and my students could gain so much from it.  That I think is the highest praise you could offer such a book.”
--Paul Cody
Professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College, legendary writing teacher, and author of many critically-acclaimed novels 

The Times of India: (February 15, 2009):
ARTICLE: "What's in a CEO's library?"
"...Kiyawat started a reading club for CEOs four years ago. The books they shared went beyond management and business to include spirituality and philosophy. The CEOs paid attention to quirky titles such as 'The Art of Punctuation' by Noah Lukeman and 'The Pleasures of Watching Birds' by Lola Oberman."

* Recommended Resource of National Punctuation Day

Past Accolades (for the Plot Thickens):
* A National Bestseller
* A Book Sense 76 selection
* A selection of the Writers Digest Book Club
* serialized in Writers Digest
* serialized in The Writer
* serialized in Authorlink
* serialized in the Writers Store

Past Endorsements and Reviews
(for The Plot Thickens)

“THE PLOT THICKENS is one of the best-ever books about the craft of writing.  It is a book that can change the world of every writer who embraces Lukeman's ideas.  His classroom on paper should be on every writer’s shelf to be read again and again. The book is a personal gift from a master agent who truly cares not only about the written word, but most of all, about the people who struggle to convey ideas upon the printed page.”

 “Lukeman’s advice is practical—and often entails multiple, time-consuming steps—without a hint of the flakiness that creeps into many writing guides. Though Lukeman works with books, he wisely asserts that the observations in this volume are applicable to all types of imaginary writing, from film to poetry.  Indeed, it is a worthy addition to any writer’s reference shelf.”
--Publishers Weekly

“...a crisply written, nicely detailed examination of the art of storytelling. Beginning writers will find plenty of practical tips and useful advice in its pages”

“Lukeman's book succeeds because it takes a commonsense approach to plotting, one that centers on characters and a few basic elements such as conflict and suspense.  THE PLOT THICKENS is a highly useful book that is written in an accessible style and filled with valuable examples.  I recommend this for the aspiring novelist who needs a helpful guide to developing and creating vivid characters.”
--The Writer

“For those of us who have ever grappled with plot, THE PLOT THICKENS is a godsend.  I never tire of reading Noah Lukeman's work because his voice is eloquent, insightful, practical, original, and sincere. The man has respect for literature and it shows.  There is information in Noah Lukeman's books I have not read elsewhere. The most veteran author can learn from THE PLOT THICKENS. Beginners will find a gold mine. I wish I could have read this book years ago.  THE PLOT THICKENS is not the type of book you want to check out from the library or borrow from a friend. It is the type of book you need to purchase so it can sit on your desk, dog-eared and underlined, worn from years of overuse. For the playwright, the screenwriter, the novelist, or the short-story writer, THE PLOT THICKENS is more than a book on craft, it's a tool.”

“Conflict - the most difficult concept for new writers to understand. Lukeman does a masterful job of explaining this important aspect of plot development… Written with clarity, Lukeman never talks down to his reader. His personable writing style elevates THE PLOT THICKENS from a text on writing to a written version of  the mentor you always wished you could have.”
--The Midwest Book Review

“THE PLOT THICKENS is wonderful!”
--Writers Digest Book Club (Linda Walker, Editor)

“Fantastic book. Gives you lots of insight on how to write a great story. We at Hollywoodlitsales.com couldn't put it down. It was better than reading a great novel.”

“I can think of countless novels that would have been improved by following the “8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life,” which is full of practical common sense about how to write fiction and answers many of the difficult questions first novelists ask themselves.”
--Michael Korda, Author of Queenie, The Fortune, Making the List

"In his book THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, Noah Lukeman, one of the top literary agents in New York, gave writers a great gift. Now, in THE PLOT THICKENS, he shows writers how to build stories in which the plot emerges from fresh, alive, and intense characters. Both beginners and more advanced writers will find many wonderful, thought-provoking concepts and approaches here to help them hone their craft.”
--James Frey, Author of How to Write a Damn Good Novel and The Key 

“Noah Lukeman keeps laser-like focus on the single most important principle of good writing: creating plot through the characters. THE PLOT THICKENS is a pleasure to read, and filled with useful information.”
--John Truby, Truby's Writers Studio

"Brilliant.  The Plot Thickens literally gears a person up to writing big-themed, deep, humorous, and varied fiction.  Personable, buoyant, and very wise, The Plot Thickens made me feel wildly buoyed up with that joy that is particular to fiction-making.  It pulls off the virtues we want in a writing handbook —succinct discussions of plot and character and tone, amazing lists of qualities to check for our characters, ways to build and keep suspense, ways to understand a character from the inside where people cleave to their own personalities as well as from the outside, where we act and speak. Lukeman’s help with characterization is better than that of other manual-writers because, page for page, he thinks more than other writing teachers, not just about writing books but about people.”
--Carol Bly, author of Beyond the Writers' Workshop

THE PLOT THICKENS is my favorite kind of how-to-write book…Never high-handed or stuffy, the book is easy to read but thought provoking at the same time.…Mr. Lukeman takes you through many ways to increase tension and suspense in your work, as well as how conflict affects the storyline and how you can prolong it to keep the reader entranced.….His comments were very informative and insightful and could be used by all of us when it comes time to edit our novels. ….I highly recommend The Plot Thickens. …Read it slowly. Ponder the questions and the examples.”

“THE PLOT THICKENS is a book that deserves a prominent place on any writer's bookshelf.”

“The final two chapters deal with issues few are willing or able to cover in such a clear manner. Lukeman tackles the difficult task of trying to pinpoint exactly what qualities an extraordinary book possesses….Lukeman uses his experiences as an agent to create a book that will benefit all types of writers. Film and novel critics will find Lukeman's book to be an outstanding guide when analyzing story plot…The conversational style makes The Plot Thickens a pleasure to read; the compact size makes it convenient to transport. It is the type of book that every writer should own.”

“Well known literary agent Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens is different. The book is so well written--so tight and polished--that it provides a perfect example of its own principles. Lukeman's prose is so lucid that it manages to render even complex concepts like "transcendency" clear, and provides practical ways of incorporating character-driven plot and transcendency into your work. It would be a rare writer who didn't find his or her manuscript improving through application of Lukeman's extensive questions….Lukeman understands, in a way which only comes from extensive reading and editing, what makes for excellent, not just bestselling, fiction. His literary assistance can clearly make the difference between a good book (he won't take on anything less) and a work of art. If you aren't lucky enough to have him for your agent, he offers this book as a kind of "gift." Treat yourself to his superbly written reference guide....The Plot Thickens is a resource that fiction writers, both beginning and experienced, will return to repeatedly.”
--TheCompulsiveReader.com (and NetAuthor.Org)

“Unlike most of us who read bad writing for a living, Noah has done something about it. The first two chapters, including writing exercises, enable authors to build complex characters from the ground up.  New writers should especially benefit from these chapters…If Noah's book encourages more unique characters, that will be service enough….Chapter 5, Suspense, is one of the best how-to guides on the subject.  I took notes; it's that good.  He knows suspense and knows how to create and sustain it….Read this book cover to cover, then put it in the resource section of your personal library. When tempted to lift actors from central casting, or to retread a tired old tale, reach for The Plot Thickens instead and build something good from the ground up.”

“Anyone who loves to write character-driven plots will love this book! …..The Plot Thickens 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life is a book that not only an instruction book, it’s also an ideas book. What I particularly loved about this book was that the examples used came not only from books, but also from well-known movies….Plot is one of the hardest disciplines in the fiction writing field for many writers….The Plot Thickens 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life gives advice how to achieve this in the most natural way possible….An easy to read book that can be read from start to finish, or which can be delved into whenever you’re blocked for an idea on where your plot should go next, The Plot Thickens 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life is a guide that will complement any writer’s reference shelf.”

“Eight step, common sense doctrine beneficial for advanced writers, but best suited for freshman novelists….Lukeman, a literary agent, piles on the wisdom and warmth, leaving writers with both a newfound, viable toolset — and vibrant inspiration.”
--The Boox Review

 “Noah  Lukeman offers novelists a superb writing tool!  THE PLOT THICKENS is THE book to read for anyone who wants to really learn and improve their fiction.”
Sheri' McConnell, MAOM, Founder & President
--National Association of Women Writers

 “Lukeman's strength lies in his concise, direct treatment of the subject along with his thought-provoking questions that prod the reader to dig deeper into their own stories. He freely passes along the wisdom he's gained in the industry, and his every word is focused on the goal of creating publishable fiction. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to read this book without walking away with ideas to deepen and to improve your own stories, and this makes THE PLOT THICKENS an excellent investment for the serious writer.”
--Romance Writers of America (Nashville)

“Perhaps my favorite lesson in The Plot Thickens was on transcendency, or the ability of the work to "leave a deep, lasting impression on the audience." Lukeman lists character multidimensionality, timelessness, and relatability, among others, as aspects of a transcendent work and gives examples of novels (and films) which have risen above space and time to affect audiences for generations. The most interesting ideas come when he discusses the conscious and unconscious motivation behind writing and the emotions that fuel this motivation…..The thing that struck me about Mr. Lukeman’s book is that he has broken down, defined, and given a vocabulary to an intuitive process.”

“Lukeman's book is being called an innovative and fresh way to help writers jazz up their plotting techniques. Need a good present for your birthday? This is it!”
--Shades of Romance Magazine

“The Plot Thickens, with all the intense character work, is sure to become the book I read before I start anything. It's rare to find a book on writing that focuses on what needs to be done before the actual writing begins. As a result, Lukeman's two titles are among a very few how-to books I've ever actually kept on my small bookshelf - they are enjoyable to read and teach me something every time I pick them up.”
(Scottie Hill)

“As a literary agent in New York with some very well-known clients, Noah Lukeman is well-versed in what makes a plot work--and what doesn't. To the great good fortune of those of us who write, Lukeman has ably translated that understanding into a book that demystifies plot development and walks the writer down the various paths that lead to both stronger plots and more powerful characters. His style is practical and forthright, his suggestions both enlightening and commonsense. The book reads like a chat with your own personal writing coach. Any writer applying Lukeman's exercises and observations to his own characters will know them inside and out when he finishes.  The hands-on approach is one of the best aspects of this practical book. There are plentiful exercises to help you apply the concepts to your own work.  The Plot Thickens has much to offer, to beginning writers and veterans alike.”
--The Scriptorium

(for The First Five Pages)

“Novice and amateur writers alike will benefit from literary agent Lukeman’s lucid advice in this handy, inexpensive little book.  Carrying the craft of writing beyond Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style, this book should find a wide audience: public libraries sponsoring writers’ groups and workshops will want multiple copies.”
Highly Recommended
Library Journal

“Intelligent, important, valuable and entertaining instructions....It should be read by all novice writers--and by those whose books are already published but intend to write more.”
--Richard Marek
Former Editorial Director of Kirkus Reviews
Publisher of Silence of the Lambs

“I have to tell you, [The First Five Pages] is one of the best [books] I’ve read.  I’ve written (and seen published) pretty close to a dozen novels in as many years… but I wish I had read Lukeman’s book when I began writing fiction.  I’m glad I did now. It has helped, immediately….Lukeman’s editorial eye is sharp. If every novelist and short story writer in this country had Lukeman as an editor, we’d have a lot more readable prose out there.… The First Five Pages should be on every writer’s shelf. This is the real thing.”
--Barnes & Noble Writers Workshop

“The difference between The First Five Pages and most books on writing is that the others are written by teachers and writers. This one comes from a literary agent--one whose clients include Pulitzer Prize nominees, New York Times bestselling authors, Pushcart Prize recipients, and American Book Award winners…. Lukeman has plenty of solid advice worth listening to. Particularly fine are his exercises for removing and spicing up modifiers and his remedies for all kinds of faulty dialogue.”
--Amazon.com (featured book)

The First Five Pages is most useful in its guidance on preparing and submitting your work. Lukeman grinds his teeth over amateurish writing, too, and offers practical corrections.”
--Detroit Free Press

“Here are two books about the craft of writing which, in our opinion, far surpass most books on that subject....The one that appealed more strongly to this reader (and closet writer) is literary agent Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages.”
--Taconic Syndicated Newspapers (“Must Reads”)

“Tricks of the trade…add to The First Five Pages’ value, as do tips on grammar, style, voice and dialog, and writing exercises…A bargain when you consider all the information packed into [it].”
--San Antonio Express-News 

 “Noah Lukeman has compiled the ultimate writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile.….This is no ordinary writing book. Lukeman has stared at thousands of manuscripts, and he can pick out poor ones with a glance….Lukeman has done a great service to the writing community by providing this glimpse into the abyss…. The First Five Pages is worth its weight in gold, and should be read by all experienced and unpublished authors.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“Lukeman’s book is a gutsy reminder.…New writers will pore over his exercises in detail, while more skilled writers will use them to throw new light on specific problem areas….Lukeman is in fact offering a much larger opportunity to any writer who wants to seize it….It’s an excellent book and at such a reasonable price it’s also a great investment.”

“Wonderful advice….I was amazed reading it…I was terribly impressed….The book neatly describes the majority of what I personally find wrong with beginners’ (even much professional) writing….The title is from the widely practiced, but perhaps not as widely known, concept that you only have the first few pages to make an impression….This is the book to read….I agree with him so much, and like it so well, my only regret is that I didn’t write it myself.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“In the world of writers’ how-to books, you are often confronted with hyperbole and rash promises when what you need is practicality and frank advice. With Lukeman, a veteran literary agent, you get just what you need…Sensible (occasionally unorthodox) solutions and apt quotes are offered...Lukeman is unflinchingly realistic, but compassionate as well. He recognizes the determination and devotion that writing requires. Pragmatic, intelligent and readable, The First Five Pages …will certainly help writers of any kind defeat rejection and possibly score.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

  “Lukeman knows the publishing industry from the inside out and the outside in.… The First Five Pages is an entertaining example of good literary style delivered by a qualified expert on selling or not selling books to publishers.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“When you read The First Five Pages, you’ll hope Noah Lukeman will one day teach us more. …I don’t usually praise books on writer’s craft on my site…but The First Five Pages is exceptional… I read The First Five Pages in two sittings (and plan to read it again). I own about 100 books on craft…In my opinion, yours ranks among the best.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“A small book in size only, this one is well worth the price. I read every page the day I bought it, then immediately started rewriting the first three pages of my novel.…I highly recommend this book for writers who hope to publish and will deal with editors and agents.”
--The Writer’s Roost

“Noah Lukeman has great insight into what it takes to keep an editor reading your manuscript. Writers will definitely benefit from a thorough study of Lukeman’s many suggestions which can help them get past the first hurdle to getting published.”

“Mr. Lukeman has written a definitive handbook on the pitfalls to avoid in your work..…The information contained within its covers will help you improve your technique and perhaps provide you with the tools to make your story leap off the pages. As writer, I found this book to be extremely useful….I highly recommend The First Five Pages to anyone who is serious about their writing.”
Planet Showbiz (Featured selection)

“In this well-organized, clear and pointed guide, Lukeman - himself a literary agent who has evaluated thousands of scripts - details how to quickly create a positive first impression and keep out of the reject pile.  With exercises at the end of each chapter, this invaluable reference will help all types of writers-novelists, journalists, even poets-improve their technique, overcome bad writing and attract attention.”
--The Writers Store

“There are hundreds of good books that explain how to write. Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages is different.  Lukeman’s approach is methodical and practical, beginning with presentation and working through common blunders with modifiers, style, dialogue, point of view, characters, tone, focus and pacing..... Let’s hope for a sequel..... The First Five Pages is an excellent resource that writers should keep on their shelves. The chapters on repairing dialogue (including “informative,” “commonplace,” “melodramatic” and “hard to follow”) are especially fine, full of insights that I haven’t seen elsewhere….And even though his task is to explain all the things that writers do wrong, it’s clear that Lukeman genuinely likes us and understands what makes us keep writing, even in the face of repeated rejection.”

“If you write fiction, this one is a must!  Lukeman works his way from the most obvious to the most subtle, telling just what agents look for to give them an excuse to reject your manuscript.”

“[The First Five Pages] is a dandy little writing manual that serves as an excellent checklist of a manuscript’s health….It will give you new eyes with which to view your book. ..This book is a gold mine for the fledgling writer….Lukeman not only details what should and shouldn’t be done, but often explains why. Having identified the problems, he offers solutions and provides numerous examples and end-of-chapter exercises to assist in working on weak points. There is an vast scope of information in these pages, and in addition to being extremely helpful, it’s a fun read.”

“The First Five Pages has been on my shelf for a few years now; I always re-read it before I declare anything done. No writer is ever so good at their craft that they can afford to ignore the nuts and bolts, and each chapter in The First Five Pages is a refresher course in the most important techniques needed to polish a manuscript.  As a result, Lukeman's two titles are among a very few how-to books I've ever actually kept on my small bookshelf - they are enjoyable to read and teach me something every time I pick them up.”
(Scottie Hill)


Full Description
           Why did Camus use the period heavily when crafting The Stranger?  Why did Faulkner use it sparingly for Absalom Absalom!?  Why did Melville use semicolons heavily in Moby Dick?  Why did the punctuation differ so radically between these masters, and what did they have to gain from it?
           In THE ART OF PUNCTUATION, Noah Lukeman, author of the critically-acclaimed and bestselling books on writing The First Five Pages (Simon & Schuster) and The Plot Thickens (St. Martins Press), offers a fresh perspective on punctuation.  It is a unique book, specifically for writers, about the art of punctuation.  It focuses not on grammatical correctness but rather on the application of punctuation to creative writing. This is an important distinction.
           Punctuation makes the difference between good writing and sublime writing. To master punctuation is to learn the abstruse arts of rhythm, tone, cadence and pitch. It is to learn what most poets already know: that language has a music of its own. To learn punctuation well is also to hold a mirror up to your own writing, to broader issues like clarity of thought.  Haphazard commas reveal haphazard thinking. Clear, lucid breaks reveal clear, lucid thinking.  Punctuation reveals the writer.  Thus punctuation can be used to teach the writer how to think, and subsequently, how to write.
           THE ART OF PUNCTUATION will show writers what greater benefits can be reaped from mastering punctuation, such as the art of style, sentence length, meaning, brevity and word economy. These are the building blocks of great writers. Through learning these fundamentals, writers will unexpectedly learn how to be better writers in every sense of the word. The focus that is learned by the proper application of a semi-colon is the same focus that can be applied to the paragraph, chapter, and even through-line of a story. Periods do not stand alone. They are connected to words, which are connected to sentences, which are connected to paragraphs, which are connected to chapters. They are small cogs in the great wheel of creativity. When the cogs break down, the entire wheel collapses.
           An engaging, practical book, THE ART OF PUNCTUATION will teach writers how to incorporate the greater principles of punctuation into their everyday writing, how to be more aware, how to make punctuation their friend instead of their mysterious foe. Above all, it will be applicable. Example, anecdote and exercise-ridden, it will be a book that writers truly can use. This principle—being able to use a book on writing—is precisely why Lukeman's two books on writing have appealed to writers (over 50,000 copies sold and editions translated into Japanese, Korean, Portugese, and Indonesian). It is past time somebody applied this to the art of punctuation. 
           The phenomenal success of EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES, topping bestseller lists for months, with several hundred thousand copies already in print, has demonstrated that punctuation is a topic of great interest to readers.  THE ART OF PUNCTUATION should find a broad, waiting audience

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