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Punctuation errors could lead to awkward conversation

Punctuation errors could lead to awkward conversation

The proper use of punctuation in sentence structure is not only important because it’s grammatically correct, but it can also fundamentally alter the meaning of an entire sentence. Proper placement of punctuation like commas, colons, and periods change the way a sentence is interpreted.

Proper grammar can help the writer organize their thoughts in a way that is easily interpreted by the reader. By misusing punctuation, this can lead to syntactic ambiguity (also known as structural ambiguity), which is the possibility for a sentence to be interpreted in multiple ways.

To be perfectly blunt, proper grammar can be the difference between a normal conversation and one that causes people to run away from you. Take a look at our list of hilarious punctuation errors below that change the meaning of sentences, which proves just how important punctuation is and why you should avoid any errors.

1. Don’t turn Grandma into a meal
In some cases, the only thing standing between you eating a nice meal with your grandmother, and your grandmother becoming the meal is one single comma.

For instance, the sentence: “Let’s eat, grandma!” implies that you will be sitting down for a nice meal with your grandmother.

On the other hand, the sentence: “Let’s eat grandma!” has a much more alarming meaning and implies that you want to turn your grandmother into a tasty meal.


2. Cats are great, just not as pie ingredients

Next, we turn to our beloved pets. Often, when people ask others what they enjoy, the answer is usually more than one thing. This is where commas are so very important. Our next example can be interpreted in two ways: a person who loves three things or a person who loves to turn their loved ones into baked goods.

The sentence, “I like baking, my family, and my pets,” is a wholesome sentence that shows a person likes to make tasty treats and enjoys the company of their family and furry friend.

However, remove any punctuation from this sentence, and the meaning becomes much more sinister.

The sentence, “I like baking my family and my pets,” will earn you a few strange looks from other people and is a prime example of the importance of the Oxford comma.

Although its use could be debated as unnecessary, the Oxford comma is useful for providing separation and avoiding confustion when writing lists of three or more items or people. The Oxford comma


3. Are this child’s parents Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy?

Next, we have another response to a question that could prompt some further questions.

The sentence, “I love my parents, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy,” is something you may hear from a child who is listing their favorite people, and not something you would consider to be out of the ordinary.

However, the sentence, “I love my parents, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy,” will most definitely be a head-scratcher for those who read it. This sentence’s implication that the child’s parents are Santa and the Tooth Fairy makes us wonder if our assumption of Mrs. Claus and the Tooth Fairy being different people have been wrong this whole time.

That’s why in sentences like these, it’s always important to structure your list correctly with the Oxford comma when necessary.


4. Make sure you’re clear on what you want to say before you punctuate this sentence

This next one will be sure to raise some eyebrows if you aren’t careful with proper grammar and punctuation.

This phrase can be interpreted in two ways. “A woman, without her man, is nothing” and “A woman: without her, man is nothing” have completely opposite meanings and should be carefully considered.

Because of the difference that one comma can make, we recommend reading this one over a few times before sending it off to others!


5. Do you want to help kids make crafts or make crafts out of kids?

This next phrase would either be common to hear in an elementary school or very alarming.

“We’re going to learn to cut and paste, kids,” suggests a fun activity with young children learning how to engage in arts and crafts. Totally normal, right?

However, the phrase, “we’re going to learn to cut and paste kids,” raises all sorts of alarm bells.

The use of a comma ensures a proper break at the correct time when reading this sentence and allows the reader to fully understand the meaning.


6. Only one of these statements is a reason to call the police:

Next, we have a sentence that could either represent a teaching moment between a dad and his kid or a reason to call the police.

“Dad’s going to teach me how to BBQ, Mom!” describes a child telling their mother that their dad is going to teach them something new. It implies excitement for learning a new skill and is the sentence structure you would hope to see most often.

That’s because the sentence, “Dad’s going to teach me how to BBQ Mom!” with improper punctuation, completely changes the sentence and could prompt someone to alert the authorities.

To avoid this, ensure your use of punctuation matches the meaning you wanted to attach to the sentence.


7. Ordinary vacation or science fiction novel?

Here, the placement of the comma can mean the difference between advertising an ordinary vacation getaway and stepping into a time-traveling science fiction novel.

“Most of the time, travelers have to plan ahead” is something we are all familiar with. Booking a trip is common, and this sentence doesn’t imply anything extraordinary happening.

However, the sentence, “most of the time travelers have to plan ahead” has a whole other meaning. Though this could be a sentence found in a science-fiction novel, you are unlikely to see it in a travel magazine.

8. Talking to Sally or marketing Sally?

When writing a conversation between two people, proper punctuation can be the difference between talking to another person or trying to market another person.

For instance, “I like marketing, Sally,” shows a statement that is said to a person named Sally. But take out the comma in that sentence, and it becomes, “I like marketing Sally.”

This is why proper punctuation can help you write clearer sentences that provide the right context for your reader.


9. Period placement can make or break a relationship

It is also important to correctly splice up a phrase with periods. Correctly placing a period could mean the difference between making up and breaking up.

The sentence, “I’m sorry. I love you,” can mend a relationship, however, when the period is removed, it holds a whole new meaning. The sentence, “I’m sorry I love you,” gives you a one-way ticket to being single and can imply the opposite of what you intended in the first place. To save your relationships – pay attention to those periods!

10. Is Timmy about to be treated to a nice meal….or is he the meal?

Another sentence that could mean either something completely normal or something sinister is “I like cooking, Timmy,” versus “I like cooking Timmy.”

For Timmy’s wellbeing, commas are important!


These sentences show just how important it is to ensure proper use of commas, periods, and all other essential punctuation to save you from some awkward encounters.

We want to help keep you out of trouble and grammatically correct. Sign up with LRDG today to take our diagnostic test and get an in-depth analysis of your linguistic strengths and weaknesses. We can help guide you through gaining verbal and written language skills and avoid making these mistakes in the future!