Punctuation, especially in emails, seems to be an area that is virtually ignored. I’ve never been too fussy or pedantic about how English is written or spoken as I’m one of those who believe that as long as we are communicating and getting our meaning across then the main job is being done. But it’s worth remembering that meaning is given to a sentence not just from the relationship between nouns and verbs and their respective objects and actions but also through the way that the words are punctuated into ‘blocks’ where the relationship between the words is formed by the punctuation.

A very good demonstration of how effective punctuation can be in delivering meaning was given when an English teacher gave the following, unpunctuated, sentence to her students and asked them to punctuate it correctly. If you are listening to the podcast without seeing the text I am going to read the unpunctuated sentence as ‘robotically’ as I can as the voice, inevitably, brings its own organization and meaning into the sentence.

The sentence is:

“A woman without her man is nothing”

When she looked through the punctuated sentences she found:

All of the males in the class wrote:

“A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

All the females in the class wrote:

“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

A good case for making sure that you have punctuated the sentence so that your reader knows exactly what your intended meaning is.

If you want to find out more about punctuation and using the various punctuation symbols have a look at the Punctuation Section of the English4Today Grammar

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