A Panda Eats, Shoots, and Leaves!

your written communications can enhance your personal brand or be a distinct liability…what does your written communications say about you?

 

A panda walks into a café, orders a sandwich, eats it, then pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter. When the waiter asked why he would do such a thing, it was then the panda pulled out a wildlife manual that in part read, “The panda, a large black and white mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Now, this might not seem much to you at first glance, but it does say that a panda ate a sandwich, shot a gun and left. When the correct statements should have read, “The panda, a large black and white mammal native to China. Eats shoots and leaves.” See the difference? This sentence tells you that the panda eats shoots and leaves, not shoot a gun then leave the area.  There should NOT be a comma after “eats” to ensure the message is correct.

See how just one (,) comma, or lack of thereof, can change the whole meaning of a sentence? What mistakes have you been making when it comes to your writing skills? Are you letting the fast-paced texting frenzy make you lazy? Do you send important messages without proper capitalizations or are your “quotes” in all the wrong places?

This comes from Lynne Truss, who wrote a book called, “Eats Shoots, and Leaves.” The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. It is such a great resource for punctuation and a fun-fun read! As you can tell from her book cover below the panda bear is removing the comma after eats.

It’s really a great lesson book and a great read! I highly suggest getting a copy. Amazon explains it this way:

“We all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in email, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species. In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are.

This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.”

“the power of a comma”

Punctuation is so critical, even in today’s fast-paced, texting crazed world. It’s not that you must be Mr./Ms. Perfect all the time, who is? And even though texting has a language of its own, it does not mean; however, you should be more relaxed when you are wanting to make your messages clear, including emails, when writing a blog or posting on LinkedIn.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines punctuation as,  “the act or practice of inserting standardized marks or signs in written matter to clarify the meaning and separate structural units.” Punctuations are “symbols” that you use in writing so that you ensure that others understand what you are “really” saying.

As a piano player (classically challenged), a music score has many symbols that tell me how the music should be played. For example, there is a staccato symbol, which is a dot that rests above or below the note (or chord). When I see this type of symbol, I will play the note with a  very short, detached attack.

Another symbol is called the “slur”. This is a curved marking over short or long passages of notes, indicating the music needs to be played in a “legato style”, meaning the music should be played in a smooth and flowing manner, without any breaks between notes.

There are 14 punctuation marks (listed below) that help keep the flow of the message going.

  1. apostrophe
  2. braces
  3. brackets
  4. colon
  5. comma
  6. dash
  7. ellipsis
  8. exclamation point
  9. hyphen
  10. parentheses
  11. period
  12. question mark
  13. quotations marks
  14. semicolon

I am constantly referring to my go-to-person, Mignon Fogarty, the founder of “Grammar Girl” website and podcast. She is so easy to understand and clearly has a passion for grammar.  Watch her TEDx TALK and you will see what I mean.

Click here to see the difference between TED Talks and TEDx Talks

the comma…again;-)

To give you an example of her approach to punctuation, I want to use the comma. Grammar Girl said that the biggest source of errors in writing were commas. I personally believe that commas are the most misused, overused, and misunderstood punctuation, and I am guilty of committing all three;-). As I mentioned, Grammar Girl is my go-to-person for grammar. Her books are easy to read and follow for quick references. This is one I really like for quick reminders:  Grammar Girl’s Punctuation 911:  Your Guide to Writing it Right (Quick & Dirty Tips). Once you read her work, I think she will become yours as well!

Click on the book cover below to see her book. You can click here to see all of her other books as well.

 Click on the video to learn more about commas from the “Grammar Girl” herself!

Organizations with higher than average levels of employee engagement realize 27% higher profits, 50% higher sales, 50% higher customer loyalty levels and 38% above average productivity.

Gallup, State of the American Workforce Report, 2013

Let’s look at another way punctuation affects the written message, using the comma and a colon.

“A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

The person who wrote this seems to say that a woman without a man is nothing. Now read the statement this way:

“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

The same EXACT words in the EXACT same order, but with different punctuation changes the meaning of the sentence completely. Now it reads that a man without a woman is nothing. Still, don’t think punctuation is important? You could even say that it means that without women, mankind is nothing.

In my blog, Face-to-Face Networking Is More Powerful Than Ever. Here’s Why!, I talk about how critical visibility is in helping one reach his or her success potential. Many think of visibility as only being impactful when in-person. It’s more than that. When someone reads your emails or texts, and especially if they have never met you, your writing represents who you are.

A general rule when texting, acronyms are more common than in day-to-day writing, and use, or lack thereof, punctuation is oftentimes overlooked. This does not; however, excuse you of poor grammar. In fact, it should make you more conscious of your messages. Which brings me to another aspect of writing, and that is grammar.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grammar as:  “A system of rules that defines the grammatical structure of a language.” Think of it as how you put words together to create a specific meaning. It is how we order our language is what determines the meaning of the message.

Punctuation does not fall under this umbrella; however, to have immaculate grammar you must use correct punctuation.

See if these ring-a-bell from your earlier school days:

  • dangling participles
  • double negatives
  • plural possessives
  • indefinite pronouns
  • nouns
  • pronouns

Do they sound familiar? They should. But how many of us can write a grammatically structured sentence? It’s not easy. The structure of a sentence is the way the sentence is arranged grammatically. And there are many, many aspects of “good” grammar. Again, I go to “Grammar Girl” for clarification.

Over the years after doing a great deal of writing I have learned many things about grammar. And I am still learning. For this article, I want to share a few common mistakes when it comes to grammar.

 

Which is correct? I could care less or, I couldn’t care less. I couldn’t care less, is correct. If you could care less, that means you care a little.

Another misuse of a word is “Irregardless”. Instead, you should use regardless. IR- is a negative prefix, meaning the word has two negatives, which means you do have regard to something.

Although the word, “Irregardless” is found in most dictionaries, it is not a “standard” word. “Grammar Girl” says that “you should avoid using Irregardless in seriousness if you want educated people to respect you or take you seriously.” Play the video below to see what she has to say!

 

So how does all this talk about punctuation and grammar affect your success potential? Here’s just one example.

A Director of Training once told me that she was going to recommend a sales rep for a District Manager position to one of her Regional Managers, until she started receiving “bad” emails from him. When I asked what she meant by “bad” she said he used punctuation incorrectly and and used “poor” grammar.

These emails were also going to others on the team, including the Regional Manager. She decided not to make that recommendation when the Regional Manager inquired about the rep’s emails and how poorly they were written. His concern was that as a rep that he was communicating with the doctors in that manner. It was a red-flag, and you guessed it, my client did not make the recommendation. Why?

Had the Director of Training referred the rep at that time, she took the risk of hurting her own personal brand; however, once she addressed the situation and it was corrected, only then would she be comfortable making such a recommendation for the rep.

 

When I started my business out of college, punctuation  and writing was not my number one skill set; however, over the years after writing many programs, proposals, brochures, websites, and books, I have become much better at how I write (and I am always learning) and so can you!

Is your punctuation and grammar helping your personal brand stand out above the crowd? Or is it minimizing your success potential?

At CHUVA, we categorize the following under communications:

1. Conflict Resolution

2. Emotional Intelligence

3. Nonverbal Communications

4. Verbal Communications

5. Written Communications

Happy Writing!

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