Rachel Carson Punctuation

“To stand at the edge of the sea to sense the ebb and flow of the tides

To feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh

To watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years

To see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea

is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.”

“Before sunset the skies lightened and the wind abated. While it was yet light the sanderlings left the barrier island and set out across the sound beneath them. As they wheeled over the inlet the deep green ribbon of the channel wound with many curvings across the lighter shallows of the sound. They followed the channel, passing between the leaning red spar buoys, past the rip tides where the water streamed broken into swirls and eddies, over a sunken reef of oyster shell, and came at last to the island. There they joined a company of several hundred white-rumped sandpipers and ring-necked plovers that were resting on the sand.”

“While the tide was still ebbing, the sanderlings fed on the island beach. As they slept and as the earth rolled from darkness toward light, birds from many feeding places along the coast were hurrying along the flyways that led to the north; for with the passing of the storm the air currents came fresh again and the wind blew clean and steady from the southwest. All through the night the cries of curlews and plovers and knots, of sandpipers and turnstones and yellowlegs, drifted down from the sky. As the mockingbirds who lived on the island listened to the cries, the next day they would have many new notes in their rippling, chuckling songs to charm their mates and delight themselves.”

“About an hour before dawn, the sanderling flock gathered together on the island beach, where the gentle tide was shifting the windrows of shells. The little band of brown-mottled birds mounted into the darkness, and as the island grew small beneath them, set out toward the north.”


This was a fun piece to edit. Having learned my lesson last time, I took more creative liberty with this one, changing sentence and line structure, adding commas and semi-colons, and removing/adding filler words to make the piece more coherent and effective. I had the most fun with the first paragraph. It immediately stood out to me as rather poetic, and I first experimented with semi-colons where the periods are currently. I liked the change in how it read, but it still didn’t quite do what I wanted it to. So I tried periods after every sentence. I liked it, but now it seemed a little too abrupt, and the sentence length was all pretty much the same throughout the first paragraph. Then I tried giving each sentence its own line (as it is currently) as if it were a piece of poetry split into verses. (Edit on the edit: I actually went back and removed the periods after each line except the last of the original paragraph). The majority of my editing otherwise, as mentioned above, was adding commas, periods, and capitalizing first words of new sentences throughout. I also added a semi-colon in the second sentence of the third paragraph to give sentence structure variety and allow for elucidation of the description being given without making it two separate thoughts. I kept original paragraph structure other than the first.


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