In reponse to a re-share for a Brainzooming post on the negative impact on the creative process of 29 phrases used in business, Ying Ying Shi reached out to expand on the idea, mentioning the starkly different impacts of periods and commas on the creative process.

Her ideas expanding on the creative process impact of  punctuation intrigued the heck out of me, and I asked her to share her thinking for Brainzooming readers, which we’re featuring today.

Ying Ying Shi is a multilingual international manager currently working at Clueda AG, a big data start-up. Previously, she was an M&A and strategy advisor to small, medium and transnational companies. She shares her experiences and musings on leadership, business and self-improvement at

Here’s Ying Ying!


Creative Process - How Using Periods Harms You by Ying Ying Shi

Ying-Ying-ShiIn a previous Brainzooming post on the creative process, Mike listed 29 phrases blocking innovative ideas. The phrases listed are necessary, but not sufficient conditions to block our creativity. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging limitations or existing problems; this is part of life and the improvement process. It is how you deal with these observations subsequently that has an irrepressible consequence: either halting you from solutions or opening new roads and views.

Language is our main tool of thought. When you speak out loud or write things down, you organize your thoughts and bestow them with power. Care is, however, needed. The words you speak cannot be retrieved; there is no ctrl+z. The words you think and write have an impact on your brain; there is no escape from that.

Psychology has been telling us that positive words have a positive effect on us and that we can be primed by these. Some psychological studies even point out to the fact that our genes are modified by positive words.

The other language constituent (besides words) that is often neglected is punctuation marks. These are essential in our communication. Had I used not punctuation until now in this post, you would have probably had a hard time understanding it.

Punctuation assigns a certain meaning to our expressions. Is this a question? Or perhaps just a wonderful example! You can know that this sentence hasn’t come to an end, unless you see a period.

As opposed to the mere grammatical function of punctuation marks, they can also trigger different thought channels. Periods define the end of our thought process, whereas commas or even ellipsis leave us open to different options and ideas.

The phrases on Mike’s creative process post were written without punctuation marks. It is up to you to decide which ones to use.

Compare the following (the original number of the phrase in parenthesis):

  • Initial observation (3): We don’t know how to do that
  • Period: We don’t know how to do that.
  • Comma: We don’t know how to do that, but we can hire an expert.
  • Initial observation (7): We’ve done something similar before
  • Period: We’ve done something similar before.
  • Comma: We’ve done something similar before, but the circumstances are different now, and we should try again.
  • Initial observation (13): I don’t know anything about that
  • Period: I don’t know anything about that.
  • Comma: I don’t know anything about that, and I am willing to take this challenge.
  • Initial observation (15): It’s too new for our market
  • Period: It’s too new for our market.
  • Comma: It’s too new for our market, and we know it’s a great opportunity.
  • Initial observation (29): We don’t have time for that
  • Period: We don’t have time for that.
  • Comma: We don’t have time for that, though we could prioritize it for the next period.

While the phrases with periods killed a creative thought process, blocking creativity, the commas have given way to limitless possibilities of which I have only written one.

Remember when you were disappointed or feeling down? You were most probably using a period. Maybe you thought: “I failed.” Yet it really should have been “I failed, I learned, and I moved forward."

Try replacing periods more often in your thoughts, especially when you are identifying a problem.

While the correct punctuation usage might not yet modify your creative genius, it will certainly prevent your thoughts from being stopped by a period. With the right use of punctuation marks in life, your options can be infinite . . .

Ying Ying Shi


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