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Punctuation as readability and textuality factor in technical discourse

Author(s): Carmen Sancho Guinda

Journal: Ibérica
ISSN 1139-7241

Volume: 4;
Start page: 75;
Date: 2002;
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Keywords: Readability | Textuality | Technical discourse | Punctuation criteria | Prosodic punctuation

This paper studies the incidence of punctuation on the reading comprehension of technical discourse and its role as a factor of textuality. Starting out from the notions of textuality and punctuation functions formulated by different linguistic approaches, an analysis has been made to quantify the decoding skills and punctuating competence of 60 Aeronautical Engineering students, as well as to determine the nature and effects of their punctuation errors. The survey has been focused on the Full Stop, the comma and the hyphen due to their highly conflicting uses as regards the identification of immediate sentence constituents and semantic relationships. The results obtained suggest that most students have a poor knowledge of punctuation rules and little awareness of punctuation as a textual elementaffecting readability. Errors are in the main related to comma use and produced by transference, either of Spanish punctuating habits into English, or of individual prosodic patterns into writing, while meaning appears to be the prevailing punctuating criterion over sound and syntax. Punctuation proves an effective tool for the anticipation of implicit meanings and an untapped resource in the teaching of the diverse communicative and stylistic possibilities offered by technical texts.

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