Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
I receive a lot of email from aspiring writers, and one thing that frustrates me is an alarming lack of attention to punctuation. It’s important! But many these days seem to be too lazy or just don’t care.
I found the following illustration on the Internet somewhere. It’s not great, but it makes the point, and shows what a difference proper punctuation can make.
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?
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?
Now for your challenge. Write a sentence two different ways, changing no words, only punctuation, so that the meaning is different in each. Put them in the comments. Have fun!
Image Copyright: vectora / 123RF Stock Photo
This one’s been Roman around my brain…
1) “Don’t flee to your death”, shouted the centurion.
2) “Don’t flee! To your death!” shouted the centurion.
And I guess I’ll try to snag the “Exit To Neanderthal” prize with this progression from the sublime to the vile:
1) I want a woman who cares about love.
2) I want a woman. Who cares about love?
A glorious morning! No crawling back into bed.
A glorious morning? No! Crawling back into bed.
(said she who really did crawl back under the covers this morning)
And that’s what Barbara did, too. She’ll skip the train, and drive in.
Kindred spirits, Barbara and me.
* Shaking the cobwebs away, Barbara shouted to her supervisor.
* Shaking the cobwebs, “Away!” Barbara shouted to her supervisor. (Who is rather pleasant, and hardly spider-like.)
This sentence was in my girls’ grammar book regarding how to avoid a misreading, and my girls laughed so hard …
1) Before eating my grandfather would always drink a large glass of water.
2) Before eating, my grandfather would always drink a large glass of water.
Oh, Shelli, this reminds me of something I actually read! I will quote best as I can remember –
“Grandpa sure was tough,” he said, swallowing the last mouthful with a visible effort. “He done went down HARD.”
Good one, Andrew!! I know on my own work, I really have to watch those phrases or clauses to make sure they do my subject justice! 🙂 It can get really silly.
This reminds me of the story of Wilson Rawls, who had no formal education, but after reading “Call of the Wild” decided to try to write. Ashamed of his poor grammer and lack of any punctuation, he hid his manuscripts in a trunk.
When he met his wife, a well-educated woman, he burned his work in shame.
When he later revealed that he had written books, she encouraged him to go back to writing. He rewrote “Where the Red Fern Grows” in a matter of weeks and she edited and corrected it for him. A not-so-instant classic.
It just goes to show the power of a supportive spouse!
And Shirlee, I pulled the covers back over my head for another 15 minutes this morning, too!
Sheila, how about this –
1) Wilson Rawls wrote “Where The Red Fern Grows”.
2) Wilson Rawls wrote where the red fern grows.
* Some writers really do get their inspiration from the great outdoors; look at Nevil Shute. He wrote on the beach.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
With a hard kick to his shin, I laughed out loud. “I hurt you!”
With a hard kick to his shin, I laughed. Out loud! “I hurt. You?”
1) As we stood together, looking at our reflections in the shop window, I could see she was thinking, “I am beautiful.”
2) As we stood together, looking at our reflections in the shop window, I could see she was thinking I am beautiful.
* Perceptive gal, that #2.
This is fun. We can even make The Bard roll in his grave.
1) “Lay on, Macduff!”
2) “Lay on Macduff!”
You know, I nearly lost my engineering student boyfriend when I took a red pencil to his love letter . . .
It should have been a red-letter day for him; it showed you cared!
From a poster in my daughter’s sixth-grade language arts classroom:
Let’s eat, Grandma.
Let’s eat Grandma.
(Punctuation saves lives.)
1) Fine, young cannibals! (Bon appetit, and save me a…never mind)
2) Fine young cannibals. (Eating family members should be reserved for grown-ups, and when the young ‘uns indulge, they should have their wrists financially slapped.)
* Lois, did you ever read Maria von Trapp’s memoirs? She lived with a formerly cannibal tribe, as a missionary, and asked what part tasted best.
* And does ANYone remember the band from the 80s, Fine Young Cannibals…and their signature hit, “She Drives Me Crazy”?
1) I remember the band and the song, Andrew.
2) I remember the band and the song Andrew.
Alright, Andrew. My curiosity cannot be suppressed. Which part did?
Janet Ann Collins
These are hilarious! But the topic makes me wonder about something. When and where was punctuation invented?
Janet Ann Collins
It’s amazing to think that inventing something as small as a comma or period probably changed the world. What would we do without them?
Don’t know what we’d do without punctuation, Jan. But I bet a lot of lawyers would be REALLY happy at all the litiginous misunderstandings.
That’s the simplest I could think of. Last week my pastor had to correct one in his sermon notes, when he was speaking on Psalm 4:3. The note said “The godly are simply faithful servants, not some kind of spiritual superheros committed to having a right relationship with God.” It should have actually read “The godly are simply faithful servants, not some kind of spiritual superheros, committed to having a right relationship with God.” That second comma makes a big difference.
1) I am Iron Man.
2) I am IRON, man.
Either way, ain’t no ordinary faithful. I’m a superhero.
Haha. Right you are, Andrew. I don’t think his point was to say that there is anything “ordinary” about being a faithful servant. Rather, it’s to point out that if we’re a Christ-follower we don’t need to worry about not qualifying as “godly enough” to claim the promise.
“O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.”
If you follow Christ, then that promise is for you.
*But to switch things up quite drastically, the first thing that popped into my mind when I read this post was reading other blogs where people have compiled Twitter or Facebook posts that have misspelled words leading to hilarious unintended meanings. Such as one by a young lady, admiring her classmate’s cologne. “OMG, this cute guy just sat next to me and his colon smells amazing!”
The one that popped into my head before reading all of the wonderful and hilarious responses was, “Let’s eat Grandma” v “Let’s eat, Grandma.”
1) Writers hate procrastination, Jerry said.
2) Writers, hate procrastination, Jerry said.