Quickly, off the top of your head: What’s the most powerful punctuation mark in the English language?
If you chose the exclamation mark, you have a bright future in (bad)vertising. I learned this from my creative director: “If you’ve written something well enough, you don’t need exclamation points.” And also, “They’re the equivalent of shouting.”
Especially when you combine them with all-caps. OVER 200 DOORBUSTERS!! AT 8 PM!!!! LOWEST PRICES *EVER*!!!! AAAUGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Or perhaps you chose the period The period is useful because it tell us when we’ve reached the end of a sentence, of course And I must admit the English language would be very difficult to read indeed if there were no periods (a sort of “literary menopause,” I suppose) Pardon my terrible pun It’s late and I’m punchy
But although periods certainly make it easier to navigate a block of text, with a bit of effort you can still suss out the meaning.
That’s why I would submit to you that the most important bit of punctuation in the English language is … drum roll, please … the lowly comma.
I came to that conclusion last night, after this headline caught my attention:
First, let me clarify that I don’t mean to mock the blog (which I greatly enjoy) nor Ronnie Custer (who I’m sure is a lovely person and not at all a pain). A “running byline” is a stylistic choice for many superb publications, including — until recently — my former publisher’s start-up, MinnPost.
Nevertheless, it beautifully illustrates my point: Commas. Change. Everything.
Still not convinced? Consider this example:
Let’s eat grandma.
Let’s eat, grandma.
The first sentence suggests an especially disturbing brush with cannibalism, whereas the second is merely a friendly invitation to dine. See? Commas really do save lives.
Ditto in this example:
OK, so the one on the left turned out to be a hoax. But still … you see my point.
Alright. Now that we’ve learned to identify missing commas, let’s test our skills, shall we?
And THANK YOU for reading!!!