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Learn English Punctuation

Punctuate Correctly

If you think punctuation doesn't matter, think again:-

When you are speaking you use inflection, tone, nuance, pauses and word stress to communicate meaning. When you are writing you replace all this with punctuation.

Lynne Truss made a fortune out of pointing out that punctuation does indeed matter. In her book, Eats shoots and leaves, she had a little rant about many things going wrong with punctuation in the modern age.

The title, Eats shoots and leaves, comes from a joke about pandas:-

A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After he finishes eating the sandwich, the panda pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter, and then stands up to go.

"Hey!" shouts the manager. "Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn't pay for your sandwich!"

The panda yells back at the manager, "I am a PANDA! Look it up!"

The manager opens his dictionary and sees the following definition - Panda: A bear, in the Uridae family, of Asian origin, characterised by distinct black and white colouring. Eats, shoots and leaves.

Of course the entry would have been less deadly for the waiter if it had read - Panda: A bear, in the Uridae family, of Asian origin, characterised by distinct black and white colouring. Eats shoots and leaves.

There's another common joke:-

An English professor wrote the words, “Woman without her man is nothing,” on the blackboard and directed his students to punctuate it correctly.

The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”

The women wrote: “Woman: Without her, man is nothing.”

Still not convinced? Proper punctuation can stop you writing nonsense:-

"Charles the First walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off."

If that doesn't convince you, hopefully you love your grandmother:-

“Let’s eat grandma!”

or

“Let’s eat, grandma!”

The conclusion? Punctuation saves lives!

Now compare these two letters:-

Dear John,

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?

Gloria

--------------------------------------

Dear John,

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,

Gloria

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