Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Lesson in Punctuation

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While I was discussing the importance of correct punctuation recently, my son doubted that it was really all that important to attend so much to tiny squiggles and dots.

To make my point, I opened up Eats, Shoots, & Leaves to this "Dear Jack" letter. The wording in both is identical, but I pointed out that the punctuation gives the letters different meanings.

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

I had my son read the first one out loud, reminding him to pause for periods and commas. He did so and correctly concluded that it was a letter from lady who loved a man named Jack.

Then, he read the second one.

There proceeded all manner of hooting and hollering and rolling around on the floor as the children saw how the meaning was completely changed by those tiny squiggles and dots we call punctuation.

Everyone wanted a turn to read the letters aloud and my son went around for the remainder of the day commanding, to no one in particular, "Admit to being useless and inferior."

I believe I made my point about punctuation.


Pat's Place said...

Great lesson! Yes, punctuation can certainly change the meaning of a paragraph.

Thehotrod5 said...

I am going to he to get that book as my son is the SAME way! I was even laughing about that one :0 Thanks for the visual!


3 for school said...

This is wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have you ignorant, bretheren!

I wouldn't have you, ignorant bretheren!
(Romans 1:13)

Nikki said...

That is a hilarious example! I can't wait to show Danny. I think your son now understands the importance.

Threeundertwo said...

I think there's a version of this book out for young people.

I think there's aversion of this book, out for young people.

Liz said...

Oh my, so glad my son hasn't gotten to this yet. I will need to remember it in my arsenal! Elizabeth

Kara said...

That's good, I will have to use that when my kiddos are questioning the learning of grammer!

Kelly Family said...

What a great punctuation lesson! I've enjoyed spending a little time cruising around your blog. You've inspired me to get back to my own...

Ritsumei said...

That is a fabulous example! I can just hear my own brothers hollering "Admit that you are useless and inferior!!" Too funny.

Kate said...

That is awesome! I can't wait to share this with my 9 year old daughter. She doesn't so much question the use of punctuation; she overuses it. Thanks for sharing!

FindSavings said...

Reminds me of an article I read in college about the Nacirema people. They were a weird group of people who built shrines to their bodies in their homes and visited holy mouth men a few times a year to exercise the daemons from their bodies. There were lots of other examples of how they lived that just sounded odd because of the way that it was worded.

It turned out that Nacirema is American spelled backwards. The body shrines were bathrooms and holy mouth men dentists. The point was to demonstrate how cultural differences can be interpreted.

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