Here at HN we’re crazy about words (which you might have guessed if you’ve worked with us before). We’re firm believers in proper grammar and the importance of punctuation – even if mistakes can make sentences much more amusing than they were originally intended…
The dangers of ambiguity
“Grandmother of eight makes hole in one”
Without the correct punctuation and grammar, it can be hard for your meaning to shine through, and a charming story about grandparental golf can turn into something very different.
Apostrophes avoid catastrophes
Sometimes it only takes one wrong apostrophe to change a sentence: “The butler stood by the door and called the guests’ names” is a perfectly acceptable happening at a fancy ball, but if you forget that apostrophe then your butler suddenly becomes much ruder: “The butler stood by the door and called the guests names.”
The comma – a real lifesaver
Don’t believe us? “Let’s eat, Grandma!” is a perfectly reasonable thing to say, but take away that comma and suddenly the menu takes a turn for the worse: “Let’s eat Grandma!”
Don’t forget the context
Sadly, punctuation can’t always save you from eating people. Ambiguous sentences such as “the average American consumes more than 400 Africans” need to be used carefully so that your readers don’t misinterpret what you’re saying.
Don’t compound the problem – use a hyphen
Hyphenating compound adjectives is tricky business: “At the beach, I saw a man-eating shark” would be a very handy holiday warning, but if you miss out that hyphen then your warning to nearby swimmers could be misinterpreted as a commentary on seaside cuisine: “I saw a man eating shark”.
Have you got any amusing howlers to share with us? Tweet us or leave a comment – we’ll share the best ones.