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A book by LynneTruss? (ISBN 1861976127 ) which lambasts the prevalence of the ignorance of the rules of punctuation in the EnglishLanguage in the UK.  MikeJeggo can't remember in detail what it picks up on, as he doesn't own a copy himself, but was very entertained by his mother's copy last Christmas.  It certainly attacks the overuse of commas, use of apostrophes to mark plurals and the apparently random use of initial capital letters even in official public places (the information displays at Woking station provided many examples of these last two).
Just for the record, I'd state that the CapitalLetters? thing is a problem with education.  I know the rule that you only capitalise a ProperNoun?, but don't actually know what the definition of that is.  And you don't always capitalise people's names, so...  --Vitenka
Don't you? I can't think of any counterexamples off-hand... --Rachael
(PeterTaylor) The only person I can think of whose name isn't capitalised is e. e. cummings. Capitalisation is slightly complicated, though, by the capitalisation of non-trivial words in titles. What precisely constitutes a title?
[r. k. post], archy and mehitabel would all probably most accurately be spelled without capitalisation. However, those are all AFAIK stylistic affectations, deserving (IMHO) of about as much respect as N'Sync and B*Witched. --AlexChurchill
Nagi likes his name spelt with a lower-case "n". I tend to tease him by not complying :) - MoonShadow
The importance of correct capitalisation: "Yesterday, I helped my friend Jack off a horse." --qqzm
ROTFLMAO!!! --Tsunami
My supervisor's name is de Leeuw. You have no idea how much trouble MS Word has with that one. --Edith.

Random combination of two of the posts above left me contemplating a boy band called N'Agi.  Rather terrifying really. --K

The title of the book is of course a demonstration of an example of where the inclusion or otherwise of a comma completely changes the meaning of a sentence in the description of a panda as an animal that 'eats, shoots and leaves' - confusion that is responsible for one of the worst jokes of recent years...

MoonShadow has always thought that the standard Russian example rams the life-and-death importance of correct punctuation home quite well - "kaznit' nel'zya pomilovat'" ("казнить нельзя помиловать"), which, depending on whether a comma is inserted before or after the second word, translates either as "Execute immediately without pardon", or "Pardon immediately, on no account must the execution get carried out". He's vaguely wondered about trying to come up with an English version at times.
That's...  terrifying.  I don't think that you'll be able to get such a strong negation in English but someone will probably prove me wrong.  Just as a matter of interest, how would it be read if no comma was placed at all? --K
With no comma it's an absurdity - a senseless combination of words. Maybe a little like "pardon execute no". - MoonShadow
Version 1: "Shall I pardon him? Or shall I execute him?" "Do not.  Pardon him."
Version 2: "Shall I pardon him? Or shall I execute him?" "Do not pardon him."
--DouglasReay
That works, though it's slightly unnatural. The first bit's almost redundant - "Should we execute him?" - "Don't. Pardon him." vs "Don't pardon him." ..though the second one of those is unnatural too. - MoonShadow
Slightly more natural then.  "We're outnumbered - do we attack?"  "No surrender!" vs "No, surrender."  Again though, this is trying to convey tone by punctuation.  --Vitenka
How about "Don't stop!" versus "Don't! Stop!" --Rachael
I think you're onto a loser: the Russian example works because Russian is a differently positional language to English (some might say it's not a positional language, but I've read things that claim it's incredibly positional, but the positional rules are subtle and complex), and so changing the way the words are grouped can change which word the 'no' (the 'нельзя' in the middle) is associated with. In English, on the other hand, the word which is negated is fixed by the order (leaving aside poetic inversions like 'mistake me not'), so there's no way to link it to a different word in the sentence, which is why all your examples have to contrive some anaphora which makes them sound incredibly strained (having said that, the Russian example seems fairly contrived to make the point too). Your best hope might be to go for some poetic inversion, actually: say 'take me not, my son I offer ' versus 'take me, not my son, I offer'. That it's so difficult to come up with such a sentence probably proves that actually in everyday English 'correct' punctuation doesn't matter that much (the more complicated the sentence, of course, and the more sub-clauses it contains, the more important punctuation becomes; for, even if not essential, at least for the purposes of, so to speak, disambiguation, it aids, by indication of, or at least the provision of clues to, structure, in comprehension).
Now we're getting on to the case of the vandals, who seeing an unpunctuated sign saying "Private  No Fishing Allowed", mallciously punctuated it (ouch) so it read "Private? No! Fishing Allowed." ... --AlexChurchill

Jack sat with his dog, eating a bar of chocolate. Jack sat, with his dog eating a bar of chocolate. --Requiem.


Yeah, I've read that! It starts off by jipping NSync?, so that's the main reason I got into it! All hail... people who make fun of the above-mentioned band. --Alyxe
East 17 were playing at the Caius May Ball this year. They're just as bad. Or slightly worse, I'm not a boy band expert... -- Xarak


And there was me thinking it was a description of Pandas..... --Tsunami


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