Tatiana Glushko coordinates the work of the Richard Wright Center for Writing, Rhetoric, and Research at Jackson State University, where she tutors undergraduate and graduate students and trains writing advisors. Her current research interests include students’ rhetorical awareness, multilingual writing, and a metacognitive approach to listening in tutoring sessions. She maintains membership in the International Writing Center Association and serves on the board of the Mississippi Writing Center Association.

Topic: “Something is Wrong with Your Punctuation”: Cultural and Rhetorical Dimensions of Punctuation in Academic Writing

Punctuation is often overlooked in teaching academic writing and writing for publication to speakers of English as an additional language. At the same time, punctuation marks are integral to the text typography, and they carry significant information for the reader. In cross-cultural communication, cultural and rhetorical differences in the use of punctuation may lead to misunderstanding between writers and their audiences. For example, if writers apply punctuation rules of their native language to texts intended for speakers of other languages, specifically English, their audience may feel distracted and annoyed by the unconventional use of punctuation marks and may judge writers as less experienced or competent. A reverse interference can also take place. In my own experience, a reviewer of an academic journal based in Russia commented that something was wrong with punctuation in the article that my colleagues and I submitted to the journal. The article was in English, and we used punctuation rules of edited Academic American English.

Therefore, learning about punctuation in the target language presents opportunities to learn about genre conventions, rhetorical traditions, and disciplinary and cultural differences. Understanding how punctuation works in academic texts may help academic writers understand rhetorical choices available to them, increase their repertoire of rhetorical moves, and exercise their rhetorical authority with more confidence.

Rather than discuss punctuation rules in English, in this workshop participants will be invited to reflect on their experience with using punctuation when writing in another language. Using examples, they will discuss cultural and rhetorical differences in punctuation. Participants also will be introduced to reading strategies that would allow them and their students to develop awareness of how punctuation functions in academic texts and how they can use it intentionally to achieve their rhetorical goals.