A comma, a semicolon, a period. To most people, these are simple punctuation marks, to take or leave, especially in this day of text messaging. But to other people, punctuation is an important part of written communication, a roadmap to understanding the intentions of the written word.
A much-used example of how improper punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence is:
Let’s eat, Grandma. vs Let’s eat Grandma. Certainly, in this case, Grandma is in favor of the comma!
Another example of punctuation gone wrong appeared on the cover of Tails magazine. On the front cover, the headline about Rachael Ray’s sources of inspiration read: “Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog”. Yikes!
Eats, Shoots, Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss is a lighthearted look at punctuation that everyone interested in punctuation should read. There’s a chapter on each punctuation mark, with the history of the punctuation mark included.
Other books for the punctuation lover:
Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style
The Best Punctuation Book, Period: A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson by June Casagrande
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus
Feel free to come up with your own ways to celebrate National Punctuation Day — make a list of your punctuation pet peeves, buy and read the punctuation books listed above, or circle all the punctuation errors in your daily newspaper. But it’s important to remember that the fastest way to lose online friends is to point out their mistakes. Your time and talent in this area would be better used to help work colleagues write a professional report, or your children get better grades in English. Other people will not appreciate your “help”. Don’t be a punctuation bully!