Not To Put Too Fine a Point On It
Mark it and strike it
Today is National Punctuation Day.
Saturdays are for word nerds. Don’t miss an issue of Off the Clock from Timeless & Timely .
Or, for those who celebrate, “Today is National Punctuation Day!”
It’s amazing what kind of an effect these little bits of ink have on the meaning of our words.
A simple comma can save a life.
It’s the difference between “Let’s eat Grandma” and “Let’s eat, Grandma.”
A comma can also cost of millions of dollars.
Like that time the workers at a dairy farm in Maine sued the dairy for overtime pay they said was due to them.
In this case, the culprit was the want of an Oxford (or series) comma.
According to their contract,
“The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.”
The problem? There was no comma before the “or,” leaving open a question of what was exempt from overtime regulations. Is “packing for shipment or distribution” exempt? Or are both “packing for shipment' and “distribution” exempt?
They sued and won a $5 million settlement. All for the want of an Oxford comma.
As if I needed another reason to be on #TeamOxfordComma.
In the mid- to late-20th century, comedian Victor Borge made punctuation a whole part of his routine. He created what he referred to as phonetic punctuation, in which he selected a passage from a book and pronounced the punctuation as part of the reading:
There’s not much to say after that, is there?
(I heard you making those noises as you read that sentence.)
Finally, let’s celebrate National Punctuation Day with a poem. See if you can decipher it.1
% , & –
+ . ? /
+ $ [ \
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
P.S. That subhead, Mark It and Strike It, is the title of Steve Allen’s autobiography. Which really has nothing to do with punctuation.