Monday, September 20, 2010

The Importance of Punctuation

No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place. – Isaac Babel

Both of the above cartoons are used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at

September 24 is National Punctuation Day®. For those who didn’t know such a day existed, I suggest a visit to Jeff Rubin’s website. He has ideas on how to celebrate, gifts for punctuation enthusiasts, photos of signs with obvious errors, and much more.

I found this great example of why correct punctuation is so important in the name of a Facebook group called "'Let's eat Grandma!' or, 'Let's eat, Grandma!' Punctuation Saves Lives."

Another illustration of why we need such a day is a love letter that, with a few strategic changes to the punctuation, becomes a Dear John letter. You can read that letter here.

There are some wonderful photos on flickr that show punctuation marks used as art, as well as signs with punctuation goofs. I wanted to post a few of them, but the photos I clicked on required permission to use. If you’d like to see them, click here.

I’ll leave you with this:

Do punctuation errors make you laugh or do they drive you up the wall? Have you run across any memorable blunders?

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you’ll have a chance to stop by again on Friday (Sept. 24). I know it’s not my usual post day, but very special guest, J. Aday Kennedy, will be here talking about unique book marketing ideas. In the meantime, you can find out more about her by visiting her web page or blog.

Tags: Isaac, punctuation, National Punctuation Day, Inky Girl, J. Aday Kennedy,


Jim Murdoch said...

I’m afraid I’m old school. I think the English language has gone to pot over recent years. If the importance of proper punctuation is not impressed upon kids by their teachers then what chance have they got? What I think I hate more than bad punctuation though is not bothering at all. I can’t understand writers not using all tools open to them to make their writing as understandable as possible. Poets are the worst offenders.

Natasha said...

The other day, I got a mail which did not have a single capital letter or punctuation mark. No, not one. It didn't have paragraph breaks after every sentence either. Now, how on earth does one read that mail?

In case you are wondering, I scanned it, decided it the world was not going to implode if I ignored it, and deleted it.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm pretty forgiving of misplaced punctuation. The total lack of it drives me nuts though.

Joanne said...

I think punctuation is so crucial in writing, it definitely is a tool to help communicate accurately. The misuse or lack of it usually make me think the writer is actually ignorant of the rules and use.

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Marvelous blog post! I'm passing it along to my critique buddy who is a retired English teacher.

Sylvia Dickey Smith

Darcia Helle said...

Loved the Dear John letter! The lack of punctuation makes me laugh at times. However, as others have said, the omission of punctuation annoys me to no end. Like Rayna, I have received a couple of emails with no punctuation, no capital letters and no paragraph breaks. It's one giant run-on sentence!

Karen Walker said...

I am not a person who is good with grammar, so I hire someone to help, once a manuscript is finished. Loved the cartoons, Jane.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Jim – I agree with you. I noticed the lack and unusual punctuation in a book I read by a prominent author. I found it distracting and annoying.

Rayna – I was surprised to receive a message like that from someone I thought should know better. I think the text message format is working its way into all other areas of writing and that’s not a good thing.

Diane – I have to forgive punctuation mistakes because I make so many of them myself.

Joanne – It is amazing that something as small as a comma can change the meaning of a group of words so radically.

Thanks, Sylvia. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Darcia – I think that letter is one of the best examples illustrating the importance of punctuation. I hope the run-on sentence emails will not become the norm.

Karen – I hire an editor, too. I tend to place commas where they’re not needed and omit the ones that are needed. I always enjoy visiting the Inky Girl site. I think most writers can relate to Debbie Ridpath Ohi‘s cartoon creations.

Anonymous said...

I can usually find a punctuation error in almost any book. One here, on there, no big deal. But too many and I'll probably move onto something else.

Glad to see I'm not the only one who likes Dexter, one of the greatest shows ever. Get Smart was classic writing. Love that show. I have to check out Nurse Jackie as a lot of my friends watch it.

Stephen Tremp

Tamika: said...

Punctuation blunders make me chuckle. Maybe it has so much to do with the fact that I'm always a bit off myself:)

Carol Kilgore said...

I've seen this in email. These words:

Woman without her man is nothing.

Men punctuate:
Woman, without her man, is nothing.

Women punctuate:
Woman. Without her, man is nothing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Kids who text tend to leave out all punctuation and capitalization and it's annoying!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane,

*waves* I love this blog post. The links are fabulous. Thanks for sharing. I hope your week is great! Cheers~

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Stephen – I find if I’m picking apart the punctuation in a book it’s because the book isn’t very good to begin with. In a well-written, fast moving book it has to be a major punctuation goof for me to pick up on it. I don’t think your second paragraph was meant for this blog (I know Arlee is hosting a blogfest of best TV shows), but I agree, Dexter is a great show.

I have the same problem, Tamika.

Carol – what a perfect example of the importance of punctuation. The women got it right, of course!) Thanks for sharing.

Alex – unfortunately it’s not just kids who are guilty of doing this.

Thanks for stopping by, Nancy. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Although I make plenty of my own errors, punctuation errors do drive me up the wall! Especially if other people make them. :)

Arlee Bird said...

Punctuation Day? What will they think of next? Now I guess I'll have to buy my wife a present.

Tossing It Out

Helen Ginger said...

They usually drive me a bit crazy, but these were very funny!


Daisy Hickman said...

Interesting, Jane! I didn't know about "PD" -- but it's now on my calendar in big red letters!

Hart Johnson said...

I'm a huge fan of punctuation based humor. I think I first paid attention with the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (noting the homicidal Panda...erm... not likely). Errors annoy me in a formally published text, but amuse me otherwise, as the alternative interpretations make me giggle... though in anything business-intended, it also makes me suspect inferior intelligence--not something we hope to pass on as an impression.

I'm THRILLED to have Punctuation Day coming!!! WAHOO! (thanks for the heads up!)

[I confess to having an unhealthy love for commas]

Christina Rodriguez said...

The funniest punctuation error I found recently was on Facebook: (A little PG-13, so be forewarned.)

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Elizabeth – I find it’s easier to find mistakes in work that isn’t our own.

I think that’s an excellent idea, Arlee. I’ll have to drop the hint to my husband.

Helen – I bet editors are better at spotting errors, so you probably catch a lot more than the average person.

Daisy – I’m happy to get the word out.

I agree, Hart, it’s hard not to love something like the comma – it’s cute and powerful at the same time.

I checked it out Christina and it was funny – thanks.

Ketutar said...

LOL Thanks for the laugh :-)

I think the errors I notice irritate me, but when pointed out, they make me laugh. (I apologize if I irritate anyone, English is my 2nd language. :-))
I am more irritated by the internet lingo. "Ur" especially.
Or if someone doesn't use capital letters or only uses capitals.

Helen Ginger said...

Dropped by again - and laughed again.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea there was a National Punctuation Day. Checked out some of the links you shared. The cartoons are cute, LOL.

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

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Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world