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Why Punctuation Is Important: Humor and Horror

What if you want to ask someone a question but you shout at them instead? A typo with your punctuation can be a minor mistake in some cases, but in others, your punctuation can change the meaning of your words.

Here are some examples that show why punctuation is important. In these cases, the result of bad punctuation can be humorous, but at the workplace, be sure to double check your writing!

Punctuation Tip 1: Commas

Commas separate words, clauses, and ideas. Without commas, the meaning of a sentence changes drastically.

Sentence 1: Without commas, the sentence sounds like someone with some questionable preferences that society may not accept. With commas, it’s clear what this person’s interests are.

I take great pleasure in eating my dog and my plants.

I take great pleasure in eating, my dog, and my plants.

Photo Credit: Jamie Street

Sentence 2: A comma shows who you are speaking to. Without a comma, the person you’re addressing becomes part of the action.

We’re going to learn to cut and paste, kids!

We’re going to learn to cut and paste kids.

Photo Credit: Sigmund

Punctuation Tip 2: Quotes

Quotation marks show us what someone has said. They also indicate the title of a work, such as poetry, and imply an alternate meaning of a word.

Sentence 3: Moving the placement of the quotation marks in the following examples changes the person attending the birthday party from Trixie to Pam.

“Guess who’s coming to your birthday? Trixie!” said my cousin Pam.

“Guess who’s coming to your birthday?” Trixie said. “My cousin Pam!”

Photo Credit: Nick Stephenson

Sentence 4: Adding quotes implies that the housework is not done the way we expect.

I vacuum the floor everyday.

I “vacuum” the floor everyday.

Photo Credit: YoonJae Baik

Punctuation Tip 3: Hyphens

A hyphen joins words or parts of words. It can also join words acting as adjectives before a noun.

Sentence 5: What would you rather have, 25 $1 bills or 20 $5 bills?

Twenty-five dollar bills.

Twenty five-dollar bills.

Photo Credit: Alexander Schimmeck

Sentence 6: It’s a common sight at restaurants to see a man eating a chicken. But adding a hyphen creates a creature best kept in horror movies.

Man eating chicken.

Man-eating chicken.

Photo Credit: Hannah Oliver

Punctuation Tip 4: Semicolons

A semicolon joins two complete sentences or ideas without using a joining word like and, but, so, for, and yet.

Sentence 7: If your loved one hurt you, which version of the sentence would you rather see? A semicolon mends the heart. Without a semicolon, someone is not happy about the situation.

I’m sorry; I love you.

I’m sorry I love you.

Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema

Punctuation Tip 5: Colons

A colon announces that a list or an explanation is about to follow. It can also join sentences.

Sentence 8: Notice how the colon makes a woman powerful but without the colon, a woman loses her power and becomes dependent.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

A woman without her man is nothing.

Photo Credit: Molly Blackbird

Bottom Line

Correct use of punctuation can make a tremendous difference in the meaning of a sentence. Remember to check that you’re using punctuation correctly! Otherwise, you can create some funny or horrifying situations.

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