Character or Punctuation. That's the real dilemma. Facing situations everyday where I need to make sure that I keep both in balance so that I am not gramatically wrong and don't write flat language, it still remains a dilemma. There are rules though that I know I must stick to always.
1) PUNCTUATIONS HAVE PURPOSES
Any writing always has something to say and that must be its function - to be informative, primarily. It has a purpose to serve. Any editing that may happen, has to happen keeping that purpose intact. The first rule is that PUNCTUATIONS HAVE PURPOSES. We don't use them as fancy elements. Of course, in language there are well defined purposes and morphed purposes for each punctuation, but purposes none the less. If the punctuation has no function, it shouldn't be there. It should make clear what would otherwise be ambigious.
2) SCHOOL GRAMMAR DOESN'T ALWAYS WORK
Reiterating the first point, to serve its purpose, it can serve it in morphed or derived ways as well. We make rules so that they actually make the writing unambigious and stick with them accordingly, per client, or per purpose of writing. This, or we justify each punctuation with reason making decisions on the spot. Then you get to deal with people who stick to school grammar rules and they turn all your character-filled punctuation logic into a mess o.O (Rule here: Smileys replace full stops when at the end of a sentence. You can't have both.)
3) CHARACTER COMES FROM ANYWHERE, BUT THE RULES
When you write, you know what you've written is not perfect enough, by any standards, until it matches the picture in your head that you want to express. Punctuations are not the first thing on your mind; they come in later. They just get written and the writing finds the character it was looking for, so much in perfect balance. Like magic. But then, not really. Frankly speaking, only magicians can create something out of nothing. All writers are not magicians, and writing is NOT magic. You do find the few, when you find them; how and why must remain a mystery if you want their work to be appreciated as much (by yourself as well).
On the other hand, writing is also a technique and stereotyping it doesn't do any good, especially by the guys who are not paid to do it. There is a process and it must be followed to get that perfect balance. If the process isn't respected, we get boxed sets of rules regarding the usage of punctuations.
The sucky part is when you have to, then, box it into a set of rules, school English style. And especially when the stuff has no character, intrinsically, it is really difficult to insert any into it even with the finest of these rules.
We can stick to keeping headlines, which are full sentences, without full stops based on on-the-spot decisions, or always use a full stop for full sentences, headline or not, PERIOD (get the pun :)).