Importance of Punctuation

Punctuation is the system of symbols used to separate written sentences and parts of sentences and to make their meaning clear. Each symbol is called a punctuation mark. Punctuation marks are tools used to structure and organize our words and to give sentences meaning and rhythm. The word punctuation is derived from the Latin word punctum and refers to the use of putting in points or stops in writing, in order to increase readability.

There are a few punctuation marks that we use regularly, each having a separate usage.

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As an analogy, think of the traffic signs that govern the rules of the road. When you see a green light, you proceed very confidently. When you see a red light, you bring your vehicle to a stop, and when you see a yellow light, you proceed with a little caution. These traffic rules help in the proper flow of traffic, avoids confusion, and makes driving safe and efficient.

Just as the traffic signals are vital for the proper flow of traffic, punctuation is used to fine-tune the traffic of words and sentences. Punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language. They tell us to slow down, pause, and/or stop.

Punctuation aids in describing the emotion behind every sentence and changes the tone of the said sentence if add it at the wrong place. Punctuating a sentence is really important, but punctuating properly is even more important. Punctuation marks in the English language can radically change the meaning of a sentence. Putting it in a wrong place or omitting it completely can lead to misinterpretation. In-spite of wonderful ideas and cleverly phrased sentences, poor and inaccurate punctuation will ruin the best of writing.

Punctuation marks are placed in the text to make meaning and make reading easier. Just as the traffic signals are common internationally, the writers from all over the globe have agreed that certain marks will signify specific things in written communication. Though there are slight differences in the punctuation rules (British and American), in general, they are universally standardized.

The various punctuation marks together to perform four main functions:

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The rules of punctuation are created and maintained to help make writing more effective. The rules are not static—they have changed over the years and will continue to change. What once might have been considered improper, may now be considered correct, and the vice versa. Punctuation marks help readers to understand what the writer is trying to say.  Without proper punctuation, serious sentences become jokes, misunderstandings flourish, and confusion reigns.

You all must have heard of the story of the English professor who wrote the following words on the blackboard and directed the students to punctuate it correctly:

                               Woman without her man is nothing

The boys wrote: Woman, without her man, is nothing.

The girls wrote: Woman! Without her, man is nothing.

Both these statements are grammatically correct but have an entirely different meaning.

Here is another story. A woman (Jane) writes a letter her fiancé telling him how much she loves him and what she feels for him.

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Now, let’s see what happens to the same letter if there were no punctuation mistakes and/or it was punctuated in an entirely different manner?

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We have just saved a heart from being broken, didn’t we? All thanks to correct punctuation.

Knowing how and when to use basic punctuation marks allows you to write clearly. If you use them well your sentences will be user-friendly.

When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly—with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow. In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard.” ~Russell Baker

Black Beauty

Black Beauty is a book for all—regardless of age, caste, sex, nationality, religion, occupation (and so on). Many times people say that this book is for those who love animals or for those who love horses. I am not an animal lover in the sense I don’t like to keep pets at home (no dogs, no cats). I am allergic. Nor do I cuddle them (blame it on my allergy). But I am not cruel to animals and cruelty to animals annoys me!

The Author

Anna Sewell had injured her knee as a child and struggled with her health for the rest of her life. Anna was a great lover of horses. She wrote Black Beauty with hopes of changing the public’s attitude about the cruel practices inflicted on horses (in those times). When she wrote this story, Anna was bedridden. Unfortunately, Anna did not live to see the success of her work. At Ann’s funeral, her mother stopped the funeral procession to ask several carriages to remove their bearing reins.

The Book

I first read this book a very long time back (while in school), and then re-read it with my daughter (who loves cats and dogs) while she was in school.

In this book, the hero of the story, the horse named Black Beauty tells you the story of his life. There are explanations about the pains and agonies the horses have to go through—most of them because of carelessness!

Some of the points that I liked are:

  • Mother’s advice: In the starting of the book, Black Beauty’s mother advised him about how to behave “You have been well-bred and well-born; your father has a great name in these parts, and your grandfather won the cup two years at the Newmarket races; your grandmother had the sweetest temper of any horse I ever knew, and I think you have never seen me kick or bite. I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play.”Doesn’t this remind us of our mothers? 🙂
  • About kindness: Horses earn for kindness and appreciate it as well. Black Beauty says about one (of his various masters): Our master was a good, kind man. He gave us good food, good lodging, and kind words; he spoke as kindly to us as he did to his little children. We were all fond of him.
  • New terms: You learn new terms, like breaking in. Breaking in means to teach a horse to wear a saddle and bridle, and to carry on a person on his back and to go quietly, just the way they wish.
  • Horses hate: Wearing iron shoes (which they don’t mind later). The stiff heavy collar, just on the neck. The bridle, with great side-pieces. Blinkers, that did not allow them to see on either side, but only straight in front. Crupper, a small saddle with a nasty stiff strap that went right under the tail.

    Probably, what the horse hate the most is to be harnessed. In one place, the mistress wanted the horses to be harnessed as it was a fashion statement. Without a harness, the horse can put the head forward and take the carriage up with a will, but with the harness on, the horse has to pull with the carriage with the head up and that takes up all the spirit out of the horse and strains their and legs.

  • Ignorance. Black beauty tells an incident wherein the groom had to ride in the night for a long time to get a doctor for his mistress. Since the Doctor’s horse was not available, he rode Black Beauty who was already tired. Back to the stable, Black Beauty was sweating badly. The stable boy rubbed Black Beauty’s legs and chest, but he did not put any warm cloth on Black beauty (as he was hot and sweating). Then he gave Black Beauty a pailful of cold water to drink and some hay and corn to eat. Soon Black Beauty began to shake and tremble and turned deadly cold. Fortunately, later the groom came to check on Black beauty and gave him warm water to drink and put on some warm cloth on him.

The book contains so many such incidents which makes it an interesting read. Black beauty tells of his desires and wishes which makes you feel as though a human being is narrating the story! It is also interesting to know what a horse feels about human beings!