Writing Tips

Punctuation and Numbers

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The Importance of Being Ernie

This is Why Punctuation Matters

Upper Paleolithic grammarians did not ponder punctuation to spread angst and frustration among the populace. It just seems that way. They knew that punctuation allows language to make sense. No punctuation, no sense. Or worse, a different sense.

Take Ernest, a guy with an unhealthy obsession for a woman named Gloria. He burns to tell Gloria exactly how he feels, so he knocks out a stream-of-consciousness letter, no time for punctuation:

dear gloria i want a woman who knows what love is all about you are generous and kind people not like you admit to being cold and heartless you have ruined me for other women i yearn for you i have no feelings at all if we are apart i can be forever happy will you let me be yours ernest

To make a little more sense of this, Ernest capitalizes and sets off the salutation and closing:

Dear Gloria,

I want a woman who knows what love is all about you are generous and kind people not like you admit to being cold and heartless you have ruined me for other women I yearn for you I have no feelings at all if we are apart I can be forever happy will you let me be yours

Ernest

That helps. Now he adds periods, a colon, and a question mark to create sentences:

Dear Gloria,

I want a woman who knows what love is all about. You are generous and kind. People not like you admit to being cold and heartless. You have ruined me for other women. I yearn for you. I have no feelings at all if we are apart. I can be forever happy: Will you let me be yours?

Ernest

Ernest likes the words, but he does not like the sentiment, not what he meant to say, not the pouring out of what is truly in his heart. So he removes the punctuation and tries again:

Dear Gloria,

I want a woman who knows what love is. All about you are generous and kind people. Not like you. Admit to being cold and heartless. You have ruined me; for other women I yearn; for you, I have no feelings at all. If we are apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,

Finally, he's got it right, the burning in his heart scorching the paper. Already jaunty, feeling like a new man, he signs with a flourish, “Ernie.” Much better.

Same words. Different punctuation. Different message. Adios, Gloria.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

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WordRake is editing software designed by writing expert and New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder. Like an editor or helpful colleague, WordRake ripples through your document checking for needless words and cumbersome phrases. Its complex algorithms find and improve weak lead-ins, confusing language, and high-level grammar and usage slips.

WordRake runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggestions appear in the familiar track-changes style. If you’ve used track changes, you already know how to use WordRake. There’s nothing to learn and nothing to interpret. Editing for clarity and brevity has never been easier.