If you question the necessity of punctuation, here is a story that should illustrate its power.
A professor wrote on the chalkboard: A woman without her man is nothing.
He asked students to correct any punctuation errors. While most of the male students saw nothing wrong with the sentence, most of the females rewrote the sentence as follows: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.” As you can see, meaning is often derived from punctuation.
The use of the comma can be tricky with lists, particularly when appositives are used. (Appositives are words that clarify a word or words that came before.)
Example: Her book dedication read: To my parents, Sophie and Andrew
If Sophie and Andrew are her parents, then no comma is used after Sophie. If the dedication were meant for her parents, for Sophie, and for Andrew (three sets of people), then another comma after Sophie would be needed to avoid ambiguity.
Example: They took in Maddie, a student, and a puppy.
Do we mean two beings: a student named Maddie and a puppy? If so, we should rewrite the sentence for clarity.
Example: They took in a student named Maddie and a puppy. OR They took in Maddie, a student, as well as a puppy.
If we mean three beings, then we should also rewrite the sentence for clarification.
Example: They took in Maddie plus a student and a puppy. OR They took in Maddie as well as a student and a puppy.
Posted on Saturday, August 9, 2008, at 7:59 pm17 Comments on The Power of Punctuation