`Perfect Punctuation' by Stephen Curtis is an admirable book, written with the clarity that only a real scholar can achieve. There are three main chapters: the first one begins by explaining those basics of sentence structure without which accurate punctuation is impossible, before going on to deal with final punctuation marks (the full stop, the question mark and the exclamation mark); the second explains punctuation inside the sentence (the comma, the colon, the semicolon, brackets, the dash, the ellipsis, the slash and quotation marks); and the third describes punctuation inside words (the apostrophe and the hyphen).
A short summary like this, however, does not do justice to the book. Realising the difficulties that many people have with syntax, the author provides a wealth of examples, many of them amusing, and the reader is taken gently by the hand so that the complexities melt away. It will be of value both to the student with a very unsure grasp of punctuation and to the more experienced writer. After many years as a teacher, and one who prided himself on his ability to write cogently, I was still somewhat hazy about the nuances of colons and semicolons and about the positioning of punctuation in conjunction with quotation marks. I now feel that I have a firm grasp of these topics.
In view of the vast numbers of sixth formers and, indeed, university students whose essay writing is often made unclear by a poor grasp of sentence structure, this book deserves to become a standard work for all students in the sixth form and beyond.