Friday, 14 April 2017

Who Needs Punctuation? by Lynne Benton

I’m sure many of you heard the recent story of the Phantom Punctuation Corrector who has been prowling the streets of Bristol at night, correcting all the misplaced apostrophes and commas in street signs.  People seem to be uncertain whether he is committing a crime or preventing one from being committed.  As a devout pedant who cannot help wincing when I see a sign reading “potato’s” or “Amys”, I am entirely on his side, though I can’t see myself having the guts to actually do anything about it.

However, many years ago when my children were small, someone gave them a tiny “Pocket Money Book”, which contained, among other puzzles, the best punctuation exercise I’ve ever found. So, for anyone who thinks punctuation doesn’t matter, I’d like to quote it here:

will you miss robin scarlet said robin hood shook his head off he strode into the bushes and there stopped bending his bow legs straight arms flexed he took aim and shot maid marian and everyone else cheered

Without any punctuation marks at all, it’s hilarious but makes no real sense.  Admittedly when you’ve put them in it’s not quite so funny, but it certainly makes you realise how important they are.  I've used this exercise in the past when teaching in junior schools, and it usually made the children laugh before they had to work out how to punctuate it so it made sense.  (Corrected version at the bottom of the page.)

(I must apologise for not being able to credit the author of this gem: the book was published by Brimax Books, Cambridge, probably way back in the late 70s or early 80s, but unfortunately nobody is credited with having written it.  I did try to find out, but with no success.  If the author should happen to read this, I would like to thank you!)

So next time someone remarks that they can’t understand why people get so worked up about punctuation, try this one on them!

[Corrected version:  "Will you miss, Robin?" Scarlet said.  Robin Hood shook his head.  Off he strode into the bushes, and there stopped.  Bending his bow, legs straight, arms flexed, he took aim and shot.  Maid Marian and everyone else cheered.]


Sue Purkiss said...

Great exercise! I think the Bristol grammar guerilla is a hero, I must say.

Steve Gladwin said...

Well as I had a good old whinge about this from the other side last month Lynne, I have to say I appreciate just how far in the other direction that sentence is. But having said that, there was a comma there which I didn't know should be. Ah well!

Dotty Jo x said...

Brilliant! Jo x

Penny Dolan said...

That's a really great demonstration of the need for punctuating Lynne. :-)
Great post!

Lynne Benton said...

Thanks, everyone. Glad you enjoyed it!