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Punctuation isn't important? How commas can be catastrophic

by: Romany Howes (26 February 2014)

Woman without her man is nothing. This sentence was given to a class as an exercise in punctuation. Half of them came up with this: Woman: without her, man is nothing. The other half, however, believed the sentence to read as: Woman, without her man, is nothing. See what a difference a comma makes to meaning?

Take this classic example as a warning: a girl wrote a loving letter to her boyfriend expressing her thoughts and declaring undying love for him. Or did she?

Version One

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?

Version Two

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, Jane

In these days of texting and tweeting and basic spelling shorthand, punctuation can make the difference between understanding and completely missing the point! Here at Writeitclearly.com we specialise in proofreading dissertations and theses written by non-native English speakers: it's not just about spelling, it's about meaning. English grammar cannot be guessed so don't take a chance, contact us now for your proofreading requirements.

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Ref: 63 A very convincing example of why we must have punctuation. Oh, ye lazy ones, take heed.
Garry - 15:08 26-02-2014

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