While I was discussing the importance of correct punctuation recently, my son doubted that it was really all that important to attend so much to tiny squiggles and dots.
To make my point, I opened up Eats, Shoots, & Leaves to this “Dear Jack” letter. The wording in both is identical, but I pointed out that the punctuation gives the letters different meanings.
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?
I had my son read the first one out loud, reminding him to pause for periods and commas. He did so and correctly concluded that it was a letter from lady who loved a man named Jack.
Then, he read the second one.
There proceeded all manner of hooting and hollering and rolling around on the floor as the children saw how the meaning was completely changed by those tiny squiggles and dots we call punctuation.
Everyone wanted a turn to read the letters aloud and my son went around for the remainder of the day commanding, to no one in particular, “Admit to being useless and inferior.”
I believe I made my point about punctuation.