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.

punctuation-marks

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

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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!

Importance of Saying Thank You

Take a minute and reflect upon how often you say thank you. Do you say thank you only to those you love, those you wish to impress, or those you feel are important? Or do you liberally sprinkle your daily interactions with these two golden words?

Before you answer think about how often have you felt upset or cross when someone else failed to thank you for your help? How often have you thought, “How rude of them! They could have at least said thank you.” Or, “After all that I did, that person did not even bother to say thank you.”

If you feel upset when someone does not thank you, you should understand how the others feel when you don’t do it either.  If you have the feeling of gratitude, go ahead and say it. Nothing should stop you saying those two words: Thank you. If it is ego that’s stopping you from saying so, drop the ego.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
— William Arthur Ward

thank-2Thank you is a ubiquitous phrase. But, it has something truly magical about it. It is very important, because it can mean so much, and can make a person feel valued. It shows your appreciation and conveys your gratitude.

But more importantly, thank you is a sign of respect to the person who has helped you or given you something. That is the reason why most of us feel hurt and let down when someone doesn’t thank us. It makes us feel let down, unappreciated, and probably, unloved.

There are three types of people:

  • People for whom expressing appreciation is a natural response. It is almost like a reflex reaction and so the others may see it as an empty ritual. Actually, it is their way of life. They are people who appreciate small things. They are also aware that a bit of kindness can change the day of another person.
  • The second type, unfortunately, are those who have difficulty displaying their gratitude. They remain mute, leaving the contributor feeling confused, perplexed, and under-appreciated.
  • The third type is the most selfish type. For these people, being polite is about putting on the see-how-good-I-am type of act. These people are typically polite to strangers but not with their own family. They act polite but only for some sort of reward or self-gratification. Also, who they will be polite to depend on what they want because they only want something for themselves.

If you search for the phrase “Saying Thank You” you can get many websites on the subject. It is pathetic that websites have to help people learn how to say thanks. This is probably the reason that even when we do get a thank you, it often almost seems like an afterthought. When thank you becomes a thoughtless auto-response, it loses the narrative of gratitude. The feel of appreciation comes from the tone, the body language, the eyes, the handshake, or the embrace. It’s a wholesome package!

Saying thank you is an everyday etiquette and a simple courtesy that takes just a moment. It costs nothing, not even effort. But it is also one of the most important ways in which we interact with others.  What you need to understand is: forgetting or neglecting to say thank you is outright rude. It upsets and annoys people, it also makes you look bad. However important or busy you are, you have to take the effort to thank people, however, small the thing they have done for you.

Remember, a small effort of appreciation and kindness can change the day of another person. For example, assume that you travel to the office in the morning in an auto or a cab. When stepping out say a thank you with a smile and mean it. This small effort makes the driver a little happier and he will be in a better mood than he currently is in. By making someone else feel important and appreciated, you have the power to brighten up someone’s day in the smallest of ways and that person is more likely to pass on that feeling to someone else. The two words have the strength to change a very bad day into a day of joy.

Many people thank for gifts, special favors, and for assistance in times of need. But it is not only these things where thank you matters. We also need to thank you when someone who holds the door for us, when the shopkeeper hands our change in the store when your child hugs you, or your partner cooks a meal for you. There is nothing wrong in making a person who values you, feel valued, loved, and appreciated.

In one of her TED talks, Dr. Laura Trice stresses about the power of saying thank you and reminds us why we should say it—and ask to hear it—more often. Dr. Trice emphasizes two major points:

  • Most of us really want to hear someone thank us for the things that we do, even if it is something that we are supposed to be doing. Being appreciated is one of those things that really motivates us, both at work and in life, so a little goes a long way if you can offer up a genuine thank you when it’s appropriate.
  • In our relationships, it is very important to make it clear when we want to be appreciated. Otherwise, we run the risk of never hearing it because the other people in our lives assume that they don’t need to say it. In other words, if you feel underappreciated, make it clear to the people in your life that you feel that way—anyone who actually cares about you will be more than willing to make sure that’s no longer the case.

In the corporate setup, acknowledging someone’s efforts with thanks is not only expected, but it is also an integral part of building goodwill. Taking an effort to thank employees, coworkers, peers, managers, supervisors, and customers can make a huge impact on a workplace. It is a small gesture that can mean so much. Showing a little gratitude in the office could be the simplest, yet most effective way to:

  • Increase performance
  • Boost morale
  • Increase job satisfaction
  • Promote a healthy culture

Treating co-workers with respect and appreciation is necessary for the workplace. Thanking a peer for his assistance shows appreciation — and will likely motivate him to help you again in the future. If someone takes time from his job to assist you or does an exemplary job, you should also take the time to notify his manager of your appreciation.

Though thank yous are well appreciated, many a time, a thank you mentioned verbally or via email may become routine. While email is easy, take time to send a handwritten thank-you card to your employee, supervisor, or co-worker. Those extra few moments will show you truly value whomever you are thanking in the workplace.

thank-1Since everyone you work with is often on the lookout for some sort recognition—there is really no excuse not to acknowledge the hard work someone put in or the help someone provided. The importance of the words thank you depends on how we feel when saying it and how it is perceived by the recipient.

When you thank someone, it should be a natural, positive, feel-good form of interaction to show you. It should not seem that you are forced to utter those two words. Practice saying thank you. Respond immediately until it becomes a habit.

Saying thank you is a simple task that practically requires no effort  So what are you waiting for? Thank someone today!

THANK YOU for reading this J

Need vs Should

Need vs Should. Yes, it’s a bit confusing, but we can sort it out!

Should expresses advise: a suggestion, a recommendation.  It is weaker than must.

Examples:

  • We should select cars that are more fuel efficient.
  • We should use reusable bags when shopping

Must express a stronger point of view or opinion. It expresses necessity. It is used when you are compelled to do something.

Examples:

  • We must redesign engines to be more fuel efficient.
  • The grocery stores must provide reusable bags when shopping.

In short, both should and must are similar in meaning except that must is a much stronger word (in terms of necessity) as compared to should.

The sun is so bright today. I should put on my sunglasses.

The sun is so bright today. I need to put on my sunglasses.

What is the difference between the two statements? Both statements are correct, but the meaning is completely different.

  • When using should you express that it is advisable to wear glasses to protect your eyes.
  • When using the word need you are saying that the sun is too intense for you to bear it. So there is a requirement for you to wear sunglasses.

 

Gifts for My Daughter

Gifts for My Daughter.

Day 3: Innsbruck (not yet complete)

After a great lunch at an Indian restaurant, we set to explore the city of Innsbruck. Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, is spread out along the banks of the River Inn. With the charming meadows nestled against the snow-capped mountains, the city of Innsbruck is a beautiful sight.

Our orientation tour of Innsbruck included: Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof), Hofkirsche, St. Anne’s Column, Stadtturm, Triumphpforte, and Helblinghaus.

How Safe am I?

This was written by my daughter when she was about 13 years old and blogged it when she was about 15….. I share her sentiments. Unfortunately, the concern is valid even now (she will be 17 in a few months)

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How safe am I? People usually question them themselves about safety when they become big enough to be aware of problems around them. But unfortunately, this is a question a female may start to ask when in the womb of the mother, “Mother am I safe?” I am now almost 15 years old. Old? No!! I have been on this world only for 15 years now. All along my life so far I have never seen my parents lament that they have had a daughter. In fact they have always supported me in all the activities I wanted to do, been proud of me, and have motivated me to do better. I know that they are proud of my little achievements be it winning a dance competition in our society or winning the best speaker of the class at school, they are proud of all little things I…

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