Punctuate It This Way
Punctuation in writing is an attempt to replace physical movements that accompany conversation with symbols. In conversation we wave our arms to accent a statement, we raise four fingers to add visual emphasis to four points of our comments, we stand up straight to stress the truth of a statement, we lean forward to take the audience into our confidence, we shift from foot to foot to unintentionally reveal our nervousness, we raise our eyebrows to express astonishment, we frown to reveal a disturbing thought, we raise our voice to demonstrate our belief in what we are saying, we soften our voice to get closer attention, we raise the pitch of our voice to reveal concern, we lower the pitch to indicate positiveness, we increase our rate of speech to indicate intensity, we slow our rate to be clearly understood, and we stop occasionally to let a point sink in.
It is difficult to imagine a few small marks between printed words—the period, comma, semicolon, colon, exclamation point, hyphen, capital letter, dash, quotation mark, apostrophe, parenthesis, bracket, italic and virgule (slash)— conveying the effects of all these physical movements, but that is what the writer is up against. And that is why punctuation is important.
Why Use Punctuation?
Here are two illustrations, one of missing and one of misplaced punctuation: At one time I worked as a billing clerk in a branch of a multinational truck trailer manufacturer. The billing policy was that the longer the description of repair work, the easier it would be to explain our high charges to our customers.