PUNCTUATION

WHO NEEDS IT?

Punctuation is sometimes called the stitching that holds the fabric of the language together; the traffic lights which tell us to slow down, stop, take a detour, or make us notice something. It is a courtesy designed to help readers understand a story without stumbling.

Grammar is the overall structure of a language, including syntax, vocabulary, punctuation and symantics. However punctuation is to the written word what phonology is to the spoken word: without it we could make little sense of what we read.

So, just how important is punctuation? Well, read this paragraph:

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 forever happy – will you let me be yours?

Jill

Now, read it again:

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 forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,

Jill

Or consider these options (with apologies to Cole Porter)

  • What? Is this thing called love?
  • What is this thing called? Love?
  • What is this thing called, love?
  • What is this thing called, love?
  • “What is this thing?” called Love.
  • “What is this?” Thing called. “Love?”
  • “What? Is this Thing?” called Love.
  • “What is,” this thing called, “love?”

As you can see, punctuation is essential. A war started because of the lack of a full stop; people’s wills have been contested because of the placement of a single comma. Ignore good punctuation at your peril!

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