The importance of commas – Punctuation matters

Does accurate punctuation still matter?

Some say punctuation is becoming less relevant. But reading a fantastic book by Nicci French, I came across a sentence that perfectly illustrates the importance of the humble comma:

‘Men in leather jackets, with oiled-back hair and manky teeth, were tightening things with spanners’. 

The commas after jackets and teeth are absolutely crucial here. Without them you get:

‘Men in leather jackets with oiled-back hair and manky teeth were tightening things with spanners’. Which means that the leather jackets had oiled-back hair and manky teeth… and makes no sense at all.

Yes, you’d probably do a double-take, re-read the comma-less sentence above and decide the manky teeth and oiled-back hair belonged to the blokes in question, not their jackets. But it’s enough to cause a hiccup in your progress, which in a commercial context is enough to put you off your buying stride.

Every little helps…

We don’t fully realise how much we depend on punctuation when reading. But when it isn’t there, you can bet most of us notice to one degree or another. Getting it right every time means your piece of copy enjoys a tiny yet significant advantage over a piece without proper punctuation. And in today’s super-competitive business landscape, every little helps.