A Punctuation Mark Can Cost Your Marriage


Dear John,

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 are apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be yours? 

Yours love, Dora

Mrs Dora broke her husband’s heart with a letter supposed to be an amorous one. The reason? Wrong punctuation! She wanted to express her love for her husband through the letter, but sadly, she got her punctuation completely wrong, which completely altered the content of her letter. Below is what Mrs Dora really wanted the husband to read:

Dear John,

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 are apart. I can be forever happy if you will let me be yours. 

Yours love, Dora

In today’s world of interdependency, written communication has become almost inevitable. We can reach out to a wider audience through written communication than any other form of communication. It matters not whether you are a doctor, a trader, a carpenter, a farmer, etc., at some point in life you will have to communicate through a text message, an email, or a letter. And this form of communication is more than just sending a string of words, or using fancy idiomatic expressions, or unfamiliar words. Punctuation, which we often overlook, is crucial in written communication.

What is clear from the above illustration is that, the two letters are made of the same sentences, the same arrangement of words and the same number of words, yet the differences in punctuation gave different meanings to them (the letters). Could you have imagined that a single letter could carry several different messages, depending on how it is punctuated? In the book Why Write and How to Write, there are several compelling reasons why we should pay attention to punctuation when writing, as well as lessons on punctuation. 

Punctuation should not be a concern for only elites and students; everyone should be interested in learning to punctuate properly. ‘‘In time past when I was a student, I considered punctuation as another burden on students,’’ remarked Karis, my friend ‘‘I began giving punctuation my attention, he said, when I came across these two sentences:  let’s eat Mummy and let’s eat, Mummy.’’

“ When I noticed the difference between the two sentences: with the first meaning that we should eat mummy, and the second an invitation to mummy to eat, I realized that a punctuation mark could make an innocent person be seen as a cruel carnivore, said Karis.’’

Yes, the English language is not our native language. But either you are writing in English language or Spanish, in German or French, you should learn where to put a full stop, comma, semi colon, parenthesis, colon, etc. The role of punctuation in written communication can never be ignored. 

Rahim Newton


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