Archive: October 18th, 2010

MM: Comma Here, I Want to Talk to You

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Just one more reminder why punctuation is important.

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Saturday, when we were slowly, painfully inching our way out of the crowded parking area at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck … even two hours before the fair closed, it took us half an hour to get out of there … we saw this sign.

It’s not a bad sign, really. Noble in intent, well-intentioned, all that.

“Thank you for coming.

If you had a good time tell a friend.

If you didn’t tell us.”

Except … I don’t think it’s saying quite what they want it to say.

The idea is clear. “If you had fun, we hope you tell your friends, but if you didn’t, let us know at the phone number provided so we can presumably fix things for the future.”

But what it really says is, “If you had fun, tell a friend unless you’ve already told us.”

What they really need is a pair of commas.

“If you had a good time, tell a friend.

If you didn’t, tell us.”

It’s not like the average person speeding past this sign at three miles per hour can’t decipher its meaning. They’re not going to take the time to dial the number (that they’ve memorized as they’ve crept toward it) to say, “We had a great time, but since we’re telling you we don’t need to bother telling our friends.”

Most normal people will decipher it correctly.

But … like misplaced apostrophes, it just hurts to see this sort of thing. Especially when it’s a permanent sign, not something someone threw together to announce a garage sale or a lemonade stand. (In fact, misspelled lemonade stand signs are part of their innocent appeal–usually more appealing than the actual lemonade.)

Commas. They’re not just for lists any more.