In Which an Ordinary Woman Punctuates Her Life

Anne Ellis

I just finished reading a fascinating book: The Life of an Ordinary Woman by Anne Ellis. Anne tells the story of her childhood and young womanhood in the mining towns out West at the end of the 1880s. First-person narratives of this kind are my favorite way to learn about history and about the human condition. In both areas, Anne Ellis does not disappoint. She provides excruciatingly vivid and poignant details about the poverty and hard work that women of the West endured, and she bares her soul about the secret longings and profound disappointments that women everywhere feel.

Anne did not have the benefit of much education, although she loved to read and devoured every great book she could find. In the Introduction to her own book, she explains her take on punctuation in a delightful and original way that I want to share. She writes:

I will use a form of punctuation of my own, which will be something like this — when one is beginning he takes a long breath, for this use a capital. When he stops for a breath, a comma, and when it is all gone, a period. Don’t know the use of a semi-colon, but expect it is when one thinks he is out of breath and isn’t.

In her own way, she’s pretty close to what the grammar books teach, and I can attest to the fact that her book is entirely readable, (stopping for a breath here) and completely worthwhile. She’s a fine person to get to know.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Lori said,

    i love this kind of book and i will definitely look for it at the library.

    i took a trip to alaska many years ago and i brought a diary along by a woman who had traveled there a hundred years earlier .. of course, now my mind is a blank and i can’t think of the title or author’s name. ;^)


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