Pardon Me, Your Slip is Showing.

I chanced upon a book today. Well, that’s not really something to write about. Especially when the place you do this chancing upon is a bookstore. When I read this one’s title, I laughed, turned to my mom (with whom I was browsing said bookstore) and remarked, “What a clever title! It could be verb-noun-noun, or verb-verb-verb. Nicely done!” I didn’t know what the book was about, but was fascinated by the sentence on its cover which you can see in the picture here.

Read it. READ IT.There are people–too many people–who need to read this book. We are surrounded by some who are constantly dropping commas, apostrophes (where needed), even periods and overusing apostrophes (where not needed) and dashes! Perhaps it’s possible to get by without using colons and semi-colons, but I once got a message that read, “Have you eaten my friend?” I am not joking. My first thought was, “Ew. I most certainly have not.” See what a missing comma reduced a well-meaning question to?

When a person sends a badly punctuated text or email, the message its contents hold must be deciphered. That is what it feels like. And you must know the person at the other end somewhat well to be able to tell what they meant, to mentally punctuate the message into making sense. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of words strung together by someone who has just developed a vocabulary and has no concept of pause and intonation.

I spend ages composing emails and even text messages sometimes. I mull over the meaning it could present to the recipient. I add and remove punctuation. I rephrase sentences which leave room for doubt or appear to be open to several interpretations. I will concede that this does, perhaps, lead to some time wasted, and, yes, there are times when I get tired of rewriting a message and just save it as a draft and put away the phone for a few hours while my thoughts regroup. You may think that’s a bit obsessive, but there are strings of text messages that I wish I could share here to illustrate just how ridiculous they can seem without proper punctuation, with the use of poorly constructed sentences, and, many times, both.

When communicating through any medium it is essential to get your message across as unambiguously as possible and punctuation helps achieve that. In fact, most of the time, punctuation is key to good communication which involves expressing thoughts clearly so the audience understands exactly what you mean. For goodness’ sake, spare the reader the anguish caused by run-on sentences which convey all but the intended meaning. Be kind: Punctuate. Words are powerful–when used correctly.

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