Did you ever notice this sign
SLOW CHILDREN CROSSING
and smile to yourself, looking around for those stupid kids? Be very careful…..if you don’t pay attention, your own writing could be just as amusing.
Check these out:
A woman, without her man, is nothing.
What does this writer mean? That partner-less women are losers? Punctuated differently, the same sentence can mean just the opposite.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
How about this one?
Look at the huge hot dog!
Look at the huge, hot dog!
What about this?
Now, I must go and get on, my lover. You can probably guess the alternative.
These examples are included in Eats, Shoots & Leaves, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynn Truss. The book is wonderfully fun, and will convince you to pay attention to where you put those commas, colons and semi-colons. By the way, the book’s title is in reference to a panda who…
“…walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots into the air.
`Why?’ asks the confused waiter as the panda makes for the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
`I’m a panda,’ he says at the door. `Look it up.’
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and sure enough, finds an explanation.
`Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'”
Truss, Lynn. Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. United States of America: Gotham Books, 2004.