Does Punctuation Matter?
Writing is about communication. If the message is understood then does it matter if the comma is in the wrong place or missing?
A child runs into the room where an old lady is sitting and shouts
"I've eaten granny".
I read that the child has just eaten their grandmother because I'm an English grammar pedant. If the punctuation is wrong, the words are spelt incorrectly or the wrong word is used it confuses me. I will read the rest of the book/article wondering when anyone will notice that granny is missing. Others may use their common sense and read it as "I've eaten, granny."
So for me punctuation is important. What I find worrying isn't the correct use of commas, although very important as they prevent children from eating grandmothers, but the governments dictate on the use of exclamation marks.
The 2016 framework states that the use of the exclamation mark (!) will only be marked as correct if it ends a sentence that starts with either what or how.
• What a lovely day!
• How exciting!
What a load of rubbish! How completely stupid! What happened to "Yikes!" "Help!"? What about the children who live in Westward Ho!?
Do our children even talk like that? I agree that exclamations should be limited. That only one is necessary and in a formal piece of work, for example an English examination, they probably shouldn't be used at all.
Our children communicate by text message, social media and email. We should be teaching them that the exclamation mark is used only on exclamations. That one is all that is required (unless on social media when any number is appropriate depending on how OMG!!!! it really was); that its presence doesn't make a bad joke funny; that a well written piece doesn't need any.
I wonder, when teaching Key Stage 3, how English teachers will explain why the authors they are studying can use it anywhere they like!
Romeo and Juliet - Shakespeare
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art though Romeo?
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
But the moment he recollected himself enough to notice me watching, he thundered a command for me to go, and I obeyed. He was beyond my skill to quiet or console!
Tanglewreck - Jeanette Winterson
"No indeed! I am slaving for our future. Without ME, there would be no future!!"
Dulce et Decorum Est - Wilfred Owen
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!
So what do you think? Should we limit the use of ! to just these instances?