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Does punctuation matter? Some comma humor.

Does punctuation matter? The answer is in this story about a panda that walked into a cafe, ordered a sandwich, ate it, and fired a gun into the air. But why did the panda do such a thing?

The answer lies in a badly punctuated manual with a definition of “panda”:

“Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.” – Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Panda lying on table, slupping noodles.

How important is it to learn punctuation rules?

Let’s start with the disasters that could occur when the series comma is not used when it’s needed. The series comma (also called the Oxford comma, the Harvard comma, and the serial comma) is the comma that is used before you list the final item in a series of three or more items. For example, the serial comma is placed after “bunnies” in the following sentence:

They like cats, bunnies, and bears.

The series comma

American English tends to use the series comma more than British English, but it really depends on which style guide a writer or editor is using.

In some cases, the use of the series comma is necessary to clarify the meaning of a sentence, such as the sentence below, which doesn’t use the series comma.

I like cooking my family and my pets. (Scary)

A series comma changes the meaning.

I like cooking, my family, and my pets. (Normal)

Similarly, this sentence, without a series comma, describes a dog with two job titles:

We went on a trip with my dog, the company CEO and my manager.

And this sentence describes a group of people and one dog.

We went on a trip with my dog, the company CEO, and my manager.

Dog staring at woman, both are sitting at their computers at their desks.

The period

A period shows the end of a complete thought and appears at the end of a sentence. Sometimes people follow their train of thought and place a period when they want to pause or conclude an idea. To check that you haven’t placed a period in the wrong spot, read your sentence out loud and check if the sentence makes sense.

Notice the difference between the following two sentences:

Help me get a job. Help me. Get a job.

And notice the difference between these two sentences:

No more studying! No. More studying!

Be your own editor

Be your own editor and check your work. Don’t leave it up to autocorrect or free, readily available editing apps to make your final edits!

Photo Credits: GraphicMama-team (panda) Syaibatulhamdi (people walking), Karolina Grabowska (dog), Unknown source (autocorrect)

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