For some reason, though I give clear instructions, “Copy this exactly,” punctuation marks are often left out. Before 1000 AD, in Latin transcriptions of classical and Biblical texts, a system called scriptio continua was used. The letters all ran together without spaces at the ends of words or punctuation marks to aid the reader.
Wikipedia tells me that often the readers, and there were fewer, mind you, had the text memorized and already knew where all the stops were (in Britain the period, as we know it, is called the full stop). These readers, though it’s not reading like I think of it, read the text aloud to an audience and the text was a sort of “cue” sheet.
I have one child who would like to resurrect the idea of scriptio continua and regularly employs it in her copy work. While I despair over the difficulty of a classical education, and think I might just settle for an education, she’s embracing even the most ancient forms. Once, when I mentioned how very much it does matter to transcribe the letters just as they are on the typed page, capitals and spaces included, I was regarded with a look of shocked incredulity. Sam, coming quickly to his sister’s defense, points out that she can fit more letters on the page. We’re nothing if not thrifty here! Although I struggle to make sense of these pages of scriptio continua (and this child does love to write) she can read it just fine. I suppose she has it all memorized in readiness for an appreciative audience.
Be advised: I didn’t know what scriptio continua was until I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. My knowledge base is rather limited, but I read and do so regularly. Also, my very clever brother is a grad student, studying these sorts of texts. In Latin, presumably. I’m waiting for him to offer some sort of correction.