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Why punctuation works.

October 5, 2011

I have been a copy editor for most of my adult life, so I often get picky about grammar and proper punctuation. I know, such matters are not taught in schools any more. It stifles creativity, one teacher told me.

But it hinders effective communication, if you ask me.

Notice the photograph of a sign I spotted on San Antonio’s east side this past weekend. The lack of commas or periods led me to think that Jesus would love you no matter what brisket sausage plate you buy. Yes, but will He give you free pickles and onions with that? And will He still love you if you’re vegan?

Another phrase I saw recently that offered a scarier meaning was the following, which just cried out for commas: “Let’s eat great grandmother.”

Ay, caramba. Was somebody suggesting a Sweeney Todd game that was all in the family? Did someone want to eat well that night with a grandmother? Or was someone asking a great-grandmother to join him or her for dinner? I’ll never know.

I do know this: If you want to learn the rules of English grammar, don’t wait for an English teacher to offer them. Take a foreign language. Or better still, take two or three. You cannot learn other languages properly without learning the rules of your own.




From → #CMC11

  1. Wendy permalink

    Well done, and thank you. It irks me, but I admit to finding great fun in the same things. My favorites are usually misplaced apostrophes. It seems that 90% of the population has no idea how an apostrophe is used. Ahhh, well, the days of sentence diagrams are sadly past.

    • You mean, like “mens” on a bathroom door for the male gender? So, that the possessive of such a cockeyed word would be “mens’s” or “mens'” and the pronunciation would be “menses,” the same as the word for the menstrual cycle? That just leads us into another mess entirely. ,

  2. VanessaVaile permalink

    intriguing tag range: #CMC11, grammar, punctuation, Sweeney Todd…

    We all have our favorites and bugabears. I recall a roadside sign advertising, “Pig’s pony for sale.” We wanted to stop and ask to see the pig ride its pony.

    Recently a local event event organizer sent me a flier with this line, “To register for a booth contact: …” to post on my community announcements blog.

    I also collected the most amusing for ESL, GED and Developmental Writing students as exercises and examples more memorable than standard worksheet fare

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