The Power of Proper Punctuation

Written by

Ruth Rich

Senior Copy Editor

Ruth brings a passion for new word order to our content. Hers is the final say when it comes to comma placement, the judicious use of an exclamation point and the adherence to consistency and following each client’s tone and editorial style. Whether it’s Web content, an ad, a blog article or a social post, Ruth wields her knowledge and enthusiasm for getting messages understood in the service of clarity and effectiveness. With more than 18 years of experience—the majority of them spent at Fitch Ratings and BFT—Ruth’s skills in editing, writing and project management help us maintain the quality of the content we produce.

Today, copy literally has only a few seconds to make its impact. Within those seconds it needs to be concise, informative and, above all, engaging.

Fast Facts:

  • Curator of the office radio playlist.
  • Heart of a Chicagoan, product of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Knows her skater slang.

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.