Monday, 21 March 2011

The Persuasive Powers Of Punctuation


Hullo ma wee blog,

I almost called this post 'If In Doubt, Stick A Comma In'..........

I bet some my more regular readers are dumbfounded by my punctuation at times. I know I am. It's something I've always struggled with and I seem to have become increasingly addicted to commas as I get older. I do try and get it right most of the time but there are also times - even though I do re-read and spellcheck etc before posting - that I get it disastrously wrong. As often as not once something's been posted I'll re-read it and it'll end up back in edit mode to sort out this or that I've got wrong. I don't seem to be able to see mistakes until after I've hit the old 'publish' button. Often when I re-read things I find I've got to sort out numerous bits and bobs I've got wrong. There are also times when I honestly can't be bothered and when the message is still loud and clear I'll just let it go. Even when I do re-edit, there's no guarantee that it'll be right at the end of it anyway. Like many people I'm not that confident with my punctuation. When should I use a colon or a semi-colon? Do I really need - or want - all those blooming comma's all over the place? Shouldn't I just go back and delete most of them?

I keep telling myself that it's the way what's written is understood that's the important thing and that a few misplaced or incorrect punctuation marks isn't going to make any real difference to that understanding. The message is the thing, the communication is still clear and readers still get it, but I know that my old Dad would be shaking his head at the state of some of the stuff on the blog. He was stickler for getting things right. He thought that incorrect spelling or punctuation was the sign of a sloppy mind or worse, or a sign of disrespect for the people you were writing to. Of course he was brought up in a different generation and in those days things like dyslexia weren't recognised. If you couldn't spell, or couldn't punctuate, you were stupid and that was the end of it. Nowadays we're much more forgiving.

For me, the reality is that it's the meaning behind the words that's the important thing and most of the time I feel I strike a fair balance on that as far as the blog's concerned. Occasionally my Lovely G will point out the odd spelling mistake or grammatical error which I'll usually tidy up when they've been brought to my attention.  The other day she e-mailed me a couple of funny stories and one of them was based on punctuation, well really it was about the differences between males and females - are they stereotypical or archetypal? I can never make my mind up.

I thought it was a clever little thing so here it is.....

An English professor wrote the words: "A woman without her man is nothing" on the chalkboard in class and asked his students to punctuate it correctly.

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."


So, as you can see punctuation is a powerful help or hindrance to understanding the true meaning of the writer should he or she get it wrong.

I do hereby promise that whenever possible I'll pay attention and do my best to get it right but you'll have to bear with me. Hopefully I'll keep getting better with practice. {lol}  In the meantime try and wriggle through my quirks and misunderstanding of proper punctuation of the English and occasionally Scots languages and hopefully you'll make it to the end without being completely bamboozled. If you do come across any mistakes or recognise my ongoing bad habits please keep them to yourself. I'm grumpy enough as it is without having them brought to my notice all the time. Trust me. I'm trying to make it better. If any of my failings upset you then I'm genuinely sorry, but look on the bright side......

With the medium of blogging at least you don't have the problem of trying to decipher my handwriting!

You should be grateful for that.

See you later.

Listening to Ed Alleyne-Johnson, 'Oxford Suite'

9 comments:

Morning's Minion said...

Al,
I'm heavily addicted to commas! If in doubt, put one in.
I have no idea how it is I can look over a blog post or comment and never see my typos until they are published--and in the case of comments, beyond correction.
I find that I'm more likely to judge a writer by the construction of a sentence or choice of words rather than spelling or punctuation.

coastkid said...

I struggle too with punctuation Al,
and i have to spend a lot of time editing too!,

Alistair said...

Ah, MM - Comments. Yes. I'd completely forgotten about my ability to post comments onto other folks blogs littered with spelling and punctuation errors. Makes me shiver thinking of some of the things I've posted!

CK and no matter how long I sit and stare at a post it doesn't really get any better either. What's the point really??? lol.

Scottish Nature Boy said...

Hi Al. As a lifetime member of The Pedants' Society (note the punctuation...), I love the fascination with punctuation. Roaming the internet, I have to grit my teeth and bear it all! (As opposed to bare it all, as that kind of thing can get you into trouble... especially on the internet!). Anyway, more power to your punctuating elbow. I often have to revisit my recently posted items myself, in editing mode. I guess we set these posts off into the ether and we want them to make a good impression! Cheers, SNB

Alistair said...

SNB - I'm not fascinated by it - more like frustrated by it. I just wish I could get it right - just most of the time would be nice!

Big Swifty said...

My spelling, punctuation and grammar are perfect. In fact I'm so good, I could be a professional poof reader.

Big Swifty said...

Ho ho ho. Sorry, it's wrong to laugh at my own jokes.
I do try hard to get these things right - I have had a working life where it has been important, so I'm usually pretty good. The trouble is I find it hard to switch off my proof-reading mode, which is annoying as the standard on the www is "variable". It's a shame, as the mistakes can sometimes distract from some very good content - I'm with your old Pa on that one!
OK, double and treble check this one, and send.....

southfield_2001 said...

I stumbled across your blog by while hitting the 'next blog' button. You are not alone in your struggles. I frequently post and then have to go back and edit when I read the post in its complete form. For some reason, editing as I go along just doesn't help me catch the mistakes.

Alistair said...

Swifty - Classic! Thanks for starting the day with a smile.....

southfield_2001 - I know. It just doesn't happen for me either and spellcheck leave s lot to be desired too. Thanks for stopping and leaving a message. Maybe see you around again sometime. I don't use the next blog button much these days for reasons I blogged about in a post called 'procrastination and the next blog button'. I use the stuff in profiles to lead me to other bloggers.

cheers and happy surfing,
Al.

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