The Comma Conundrum


Just how important are the finer nuances of written English anyway? Why does it matter if something is capitalized or if there is a comma in a certain spot or not? Who really cares?

As an adjunct professor of writing skills, I often hear these questions from my students. With the explosion of “text writing” and its abbreviations, acronyms and so forth, many have seemed to lose the art of composing a coherent, correct sentence. What’s worse, in my opinion, is that so few people seem to care.

I often get frustrated when trying to explain to my students the importance of stellar spelling and perfect punctuation. No matter how often I drill into their heads that being understood in written communication is essential no matter what job they eventually hold, many still are not convinced.

However, here is one small exercise I’ve used to help my students grasp the importance of punctuation. I tell them to punctuate this sentence in two different ways so that it means two entirely different things:

A woman without her man is nothing.

 How about you, readers? Try this exercise and see if you can come up with two methods of punctuation that change the meaning of the sentence. Post your answers as comments. And while you’re at it, tell me your thoughts on the importance of the mechanics of writing.

2 thoughts on “The Comma Conundrum

  1. A woman, without her man, is nothing.
    A woman without her man, is nothing.

    These are the only two ways I can think of to punctuate this sentence but allergies have me foggy-headed today.

    I really hate it when I’m reading at the sentence is so badly punctuated I have to read it two or even three time to figure of what the author is trying to say.

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