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Why punctuation must be perfect

John Murray

With ‘text speak’ and blogging so common today, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that the humble full stop and comma are no longer important, and that’s before we get onto their oft misunderstood cousins – such as colons and semi-colons.

Google hasn’t forgotten the importance of the frequently neglected characters, however, and one of the main things its Panda updates intend to clamp down on is poorly punctuated prose and grammatical goofs.

Punctuation is vital and can change the entire meaning of a piece. As an extreme example, take a look at the following letter:

Dear Jack,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy — will you let me be yours?


It’s a slightly cumbersomely worded, but perfectly understandable, sentiment. Let’s now look at what would’ve happened if Jill had used exactly the same words, but different punctuation:

Dear Jack,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?



For Jack’s sake, let’s hope Jill knew how to punctuate, or he could have been a very confused man.

The human eye and mind naturally prefer to read coherent and punctuated text, and Google attempts to cater towards this preference. Webmasters and bloggers worth their salt are aware of this and ensure that their work is flawlessly presented.

Showing how much it values the sentence separating glyphs, Google now lets its users search for them individually. Where previously it would have resulted in a blank page, Googling a single full stop or exclamation mark now generates pages of results.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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