Punctuation: How a comma can make a HUGE difference!

Punctuation is an important part of the English Language. Without punctuation, many written essays, scientific reports, official documents and emails may be misinterpreted, very confusing and at times alarming! According to the Enago Academy website, a polished and professional website with the purpose of providing up to date and guidelines on academic research, writing and publishing, an article suggests that, “Punctuation primarily helps to indicate the pauses and the emphasis on certain ideas or thoughts that are discussed in the text.”  (Enago Academy, 2016). Punctuation marks such as the comma, exclamation point and question mark are all very important in indicating the pauses in a sentence, giving emphasis or importance to a sentence and indicating the meaning or tone of a sentence. An example of how much punctuation can change the meaning and tone of the message is reflected in the textbook, Communication Skills for Business Professionals in Chapter 1. The example is:

Version 1:

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

Version 2:

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 are apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,

Gloria

(Cener, Gill, Lawson & Lewis, 2015)

In Version 1, it suggests that Gloria is yearning after John, speaks very highly of him and is obviously very in love with him. The second version is very different however. The tone and meaning of the letter have totally changed from love and desire to demeaning and department. The letter while worded the same has changed its meaning from a love letter to a break-up letter simply with different use of punctuation.

From this example and the picture featured above (Correct punctuation can save a person’s life, 2012) which presents a very dismal humorous view of punctuation and its importance to a sentence, it shows the importance and absolute necessity of correct punctuation. Just imagine if important official documents such as a Bill of Rights contained incorrect punctuation, many laws, rules and regulations may be followed incorrectly, which can have dire consequences.

References:

Cenere, P., Gill, R., Lawson, C., & Lewis, M. (2015). Communication Skills for Business Professionals (1st ed., p. 9). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Enago Academy. (2016). Importance of Punctuation in Research Paper (Part 1). Academic Writing, p. 1.

Correct punctuation can save a person’s life. (2012). Retrieved from
https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/a-light-hearted-look-at-how-punctuation-can-change-meaning/

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