I remember from the time I was in grade school, being taught about commas. Commas are quite useful pieces of punctuation that help clarify sentences by separating words or phrases, or indicating a pause. You may not realize this, but there are actually different types of commas, depending on their usage. I won’t bore you with the details. I have always prided myself on my ability to correctly place a comma in a sentence. I suppose I should have paid more attention to the proverb, “Pride goeth before a fall.” It seems, like everything else as I get older, the more I think I know, the less I actually know. As I have semi-seriously tackled writing professionally (although right now, it’s more of an expensive hobby), I have learned that a lot of what I thought was the correct way of writing is no longer considered correct.
For example, I was taught in typing class (yes, back in the dark ages when we actually learned on manual typewriters) that a double space should follow a period. That is no longer correct, for whatever reason. Does anyone know why this rule was changed? I have tried for a good five minutes of internet research to find out why double spacing is now wrong, but all I can come up with is, “it just is.” (For the record, if you actually know why, I don’t necessarily want to be enlightened. I would rather gripe.) I suppose some grammar gurus were sitting around bored one night and decided to mess up years of conditioning in us old dinosaurs to make us stand out as uninformed and obsolete with our double spaces. I can tell you it is blasted difficult to break myself from double spacing after years of doing so. But not to worry. With “find and replace” I can easily fix my double spacing faux pas.
Commas, on the other hand, are a bit trickier. It seems the rules of comma placement have changed, also, but I’m too lazy and set in my ways to try to figure them out. I’ll let grammar check do that for me, and if I don’t like their advice, I’ll ignore it. Don’t even get me started on the Oxford comma, which, until recently, I didn’t realize had a name. I love the Oxford comma, which, for those of you as ignorant as I was, is the last comma following a list, such as, blue, green, red, yellow, and white. A lot of experts deem the last comma unnecessary, but it can be confusing not to have that last comma, as, in the above example, the last item could be construed to be yellow and white, rather than two separate colors. There’s probably a grammar rule about that comma I’m ignorant of, as well. But enough of punctuation lessons. Let’s have a little fun with punctuation mistakes, as illustrated by the following examples:
- I’m sure Rachael Ray cringed when the magazine, Eat Pray Love, (which I think should have commas between the words) plastered her face on the cover with the caption, “Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.” On checking this out a little further, I found the cover was actually altered and circulated on the internet. Sigh! It made a good story.
- Goat cheese salad: Lettuce, tomato, goat, cheese. (Goat is okay, but not in my salad.)
- Slow children crossing. (Can’t we speed up those children?)
- Let’s eat Grandpa. (Is this cannibalism or just poor punctuation? Or perhaps relatives of Rachael Ray?)
- Most of the time travelers worry about losing their luggage. (Does the luggage get lost in the old time or the new time?)
- We’re going to learn to cut and paste kids. (That should be interesting.)
- Toilet only for disabled elderly pregnant children. (Huh?)
- Caution pedestrians slippery when wet. (I’ll bet they are.)
- No smoking food or beverages permitted. (Can I have food if it’s not smoking?)
- Don’t wear black people. (I don’t want to get in the middle of this racially charged statement.)
- Hunters please use caution when hunting pedestrians using walking trail.
(Remind me not to hike there.)
- Cows please close gate. (Um, can the cows read that sign?)
- I love baking my family and my friends. (Must be a Rachael Ray fan.)
And the last. Just to show the differences in the way men and women think, a group of students was asked to punctuate the following sentence: A woman without her man is nothing.
A woman without her man, is nothing. (Punctuated by men.)
A woman: Without her, man is nothing. (Punctuated by women.)