Punctuation has changed so much through history that you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s not that important. Plus, there are so many rules and exceptions that it isn’t any wonder people just give up. The classic idea of ‘put a comma when you take a breath’ is widely taught but it just adds to the confusion rather than being of any real benefit.
Contrary to what you might think, a misplaced comma can cause some unexpected and often dramatic problems for writers. The following examples are sure to demonstrate just how important correct punctuation is and how beneficial an editor or proofreader can be.
A Woman Without Her Man
Let’s Eat Grandma!
Stop Clubbing, Baby Seals!
Dear John Letter
Still not convinced? Check out these two popular examples of the same letter, while paying close attention to the punctuation.
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?
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?
– Original author unknown
There are countless more examples out there – some hilarious and some less so. If you need any more evidence, check out this story on how a company stood to lose $13 billion due to a tiny missing comma.
Punctuation in Your Own Writing
It’s clear that punctuation is vital to a good piece of writing, but the most important job a writer can do is write. Don’t get bogged down in whether a comma works here or a colon there. If you’re not sure how to best punctuate your work, leave it to an editor and do what you love most: write.
But if you’d love to learn more, watch out for our future blog posts on punctuation rules to help with your own writing. You can subscribe for updates on our blog page.
For anyone in dire need of some punctuation help, contact us for an obligation-free quote.