Punctuation: why bother about it?

Show me a discourse without punctuation and I’ll show you what ‘meaningless’ means. In speech and writing, punctuation is an integral part—it cannot be left out, neglected or avoided. Punctuation is the use of spacing, conventional writing styles and symbols to construct meaningful language structures for clarity.

Look at these examples:
i. A woman: without her, man is nothing.
ii. A woman, without her man, is nothing.


i. When do we eat dad?
ii. When do we eat, dad?


i. He eats, shoots and leaves.
ii. He eats shoots and leaves (from a tree).


i. I’ll go! To hell with you!
ii. I’ll go to hell with you!

Each of the above expressions has a different meaning from its pair, though with same words. This shows the power of punctuation.

Comma, colon, semicolon, full stop, hyphen, dash, apostrophe, quotation mark, question mark, brackets, etc. are punctuation marks. They help arrange expressions correctly for clarity, and you can’t do without at least one of them in any complete sentence.

Three of these punctuation marks are only appropriate at the end of a statement with complete sense: full stop, question mark and exclamation mark. Others occur at different points in a sentence, but not the end.

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