According to a recent Google Doodle, this year marks the 187th since the birth of the man widely considered to be the father of modern football, Ebenezer Cobb Morley. Riveting stuff indeed. But even more noteworthy than that particularly fascinating sporting nugget is that 2018 also marks exactly 15 years since Lynne Truss published her widely acclaimed book, ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’, the zero-tolerance approach to punctuation. Why is this important? Because within its pages lies the information you need to help ensure your business communications act with comma courtesy.
Of course, there’s more to good writing than knowing where to place the humble comma. Truss’ book is not only hugely informative, it’s a genuinely entertaining look at all things punctuation-related, offering crystal-clear examples to help you improve the general understandability of your writing, business-related or otherwise. Every office should have one.
Perhaps best of all is the joke the book’s title refers to; an excellent example of the power of the humble comma to completely change the meaning of an otherwise innocent-looking sentence. And why, after the apostrophe, it’s possibly the most misused of punctuation marks ever.
A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
‘Why?’ asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
‘I’m a panda,’ he says, at the door. ‘Look it up.’
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’