Punctuation

March 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm (Uncategorized)

Ain’t language a wonderful thing? OK, that sentence wasn’t quite Shakespeare, but the idea behind it is true. If our spoken language can be sloppy, then at least it has the virtues of immediate clarification and visual clues. Writing has neither of these. Which is why punctuation is so important in writing.  

My favourite illustration of the importance of punctuation used to be this one:

A woman without her man is nothing.

A simple sentence with one piece of punctuation, the period. However, with the addition of a colon and a comma, the meaning becomes rather different.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

The first part is a definition, followed by a prepositional phrase and then the main clause.

A few days ago, I was thumbing through Lynne Truss’ 2003 bestseller Eats Shoots and Leaves (try doing that with Kindle), when I came across the following example of the importance of punctuation, equally as brilliant as the one above:

Dear Jack,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be happy forever – will you let me be yours?

Jill.

And now the revised version.

Dear Jack,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you  I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart  I can be happy forever. Will you let me be?

Yours.

Jill.

A classic.

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