Why we need punctuation

Originally published on Grammar Monkeys on Sept. 24, 2010.

Punctuation marks are like road signs for readers: they show you where you’re going and what’s ahead. If they’re missing or wrong, a reader can get lost.
So, in honor of National Punctuation Day today, here are a few examples of why we need punctuation:


Fresh fish
Doesn’t mean the same thing as
“Fresh” fish

Heavy equipment operators
Are not the same as
Heavy-equipment operators

Because semicolons make a list like this much easier to read:
Karl Swartz of Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock and Kennedy, Jason Bock of Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson and Kitch, and Paul McCausland of Young, Bogle, McCausland, Wells and Blanchard.

Sue’s sister, Sadie, sells satin shades.
Tells a reader something different from
Sue’s sister Sadie sells satin shades.

Because direct address
Let’s eat, people.
is not the same as direct object
Let’s eat people.

Beers for everyone!
Doesn’t mean the same thing as
Beer’s for everyone!

Who’s the man?
Doesn’t mean the same thing as
Who’s the man!

Because some questions need a punch
What the … ‽