Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's with all the colons in Deathly Hallows?

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in the summer of 2007, I pre-ordered two copies to be delivered to my mom's home in Arizona, where my daughter and I would be vacationing. We happily read and read and read together, taking breaks to eat, swim, and sleep. It was an idyllic setting in which to share and savor the long-awaited conclusion to the series.

So, last month I decided to take the book along with me to re-read on our latest trek to AZ. After two years, I had forgotten quite a bit, making the deja vu experience even more fun. I can see why Deathly Hallows is J.K. Rowling's favorite installment. She masterfully weaves the story to a close. Compulsive editor that I am, though, I can't resist pointing out something that bugged me. It started as one little punctuation mark on p. 2: "There was a rustle somewhere to their right: Yaxley drew his wand again..." Hmmm. The editor in me thought the colon should have been a plain old everday period, but the reader in me didn't care...until there was another...and then another...as many as half a dozen on a single page! This flurry of colons became annoying and distracting, jerking me out of the story, the author presumably trying to expound on the thought to the left of the colon with the thought on the right.

Kate DiCamillo used colons similarly in The Tale of Desperaux, but not in such excess. I'm guessing there are probably upwards of 2,000 colons in Deathly Hallows. That's way too many for one novel. It's like a snowflake that grew into a flurry that became a snowball that got out of control and buried the book and reader in a veritable avalanche of colons.

Maybe nobody else noticed...Rowling's editor certainly didn't. Maybe I'm the only one bothered by punctuation quirks? I doubt it, considering how much attention is given to exclamation points in writing workshops. Maybe Rowling overused the colon subconsciously. The editor should have caught it, though. But then again, perhaps s/he was too carried away with the story to notice.

That would be understandable.

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