Punctuation Marks

In any spoken language, punctuation marks are so discreetly used that students (and even adults) are not able to use them correctly. Punctuation helps organise sentences so that we know when there’s a stop, a pause, an emotion or an inquiry. Knowing how to punctuate correctly is critical to avoid unwanted misinterpretations.

Observe these two sentences. The same words are used; the only difference is the punctuation used, and its position in the sentence.

  1. A woman, without her man, is nothing.
  2. A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Sentence #1 shows how important the role of a man is in a woman’s life.  On the other hand, Sentence #2 indicates that a woman is important in a man’s life. As you can see, it’s the opposite of Sentence #1. Neither sentence is gender-biased, so which belief do you subscribe to? 🙂

See how different sentences mean just by changing the position (and the type) of the punctuation mark? In spoken English, you’ve to ensure that when you say something, you need to stop and pause at the right time, or else you’ll get into trouble. Therefore, for both example sentences, you should say like this:

  1. A woman, [pause] without her man, [pause] is nothing.
  2. A woman: [stop] without her, [pause] man is nothing.

Here’s another example. Compare all three sentences. Can you tell the difference? 😀

  • The man eats shoots and leaves.
  • The man eats, shoots and leaves.
  • The man eats shoots, and leaves.

Have fun and hope to hear from you.


Posted on October 31, 2009, in Jottings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. #1 The man is ‘panda-like’, eating shoots and leaves.
    #2 The man eats. He then shoots {watever THAT means, to me it sounds like he pee}. Then he left.
    #3 The man, as in #1, eats shoots only {no leaves} and left.

    • Hi Merryn, you know what? You’ve passed the TEST 😀 Bravo!

      The word “shoots” in #1 and #3 refers to a young plant (e.g.: bamboo shoots), but in #2, it means the action of taking a gun and shooting before leaving.

      Your answer for #3 is grammatically incorrect, though. The word “left” should be “leaves” to follow the simple present tense used for “eat” [eats]. It’s a parallel structure problem; you can read about it here.

  2. Thank you Sir for correcting me. English is indeed very complicated. 🙂

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