Admittedly, we have a passion for grammar, in general, and punctuation, in particular. A well-crafted phrase has as much power to inspire as a misused apostrophe does to get under our skin. It’s nice to know that we’re not alone. From the Grammar Vigilante in Bristol, England, to Weird Al Yankovich himself, we’re in good company.
While you don’t have to be a modern-day superhero/vandal or an ironic performer to appreciate the importance of correct punctuation placement, being a legal scholar might help. Earlier this year, a court in Maine based its ruling in a labor dispute on the absence of an Oxford comma in a sentence critical to a contract. Perhaps not quite a criminal misuse of the Oxford comma, it is still a costly omission for one employer!
So, how can you become more attuned to possible mistakes in your own writing, even when there is no danger they will become federal cases? Glad you asked!
- Read what you’ve written out loud and slowly. Your ears often catch what your eyes don’t.
- Take a break. Go for a walk. Then, revisit what you’ve written with a fresh perspective.
- Have someone unfamiliar with the material read it with “new eyes.” Not only will they be more able to catch grammar mistakes, they can tell you if it makes sense at all!
- If possible, have it professionally reviewed.
Proofreading isn’t everyone’s strong suit, and that’s OK. At the end of the day, it keeps those of us who love working with words busy doing what we were born to do: help make our clients’ messaging that much better.