On the bus the other day, we stopped briefly outside a car dealership on Park Lane. Applied to the window were various graphics declaring “Coming soon… The Mini Gentleman’s Collection”
Now I’m fairly average. Around six foot. Not tall, but not, I deem, a mini gentleman, so I assume this forthcoming collection isn’t for me?
I jest of course. Presumably the marketing refers to a new collection for men who drive the aforementioned motor car?
My point being, the pause matters, emphasis counts and, in this case, punctuation is crucial.
There is a fabulous book, by Lynne Truss, called “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”. Its purpose being to highlight the change in meaning that comes from incorrectly applied punctuation. I once sat in a hospital and observed a sign, directing me down the corridor to “Receptionist’s”. I wondered for a moment what possession of the said receptionist I might find should I follow the arrow? I have also driven past a pub, which had clearly invested in the metre high, six metre plasticised banner on its lawn, advising I should “Come in and meet are new management”. I didn’t, needless to say.
This isn’t of course just about punctuation; the omission of a crucial comma or full-stop, the addition of a spurious apostrophe. Our propensity to write so much these days in email and in text, means we increase the likelihood of misunderstanding and miscommunication because, as the reader, we can infer a tone, a meaning from the sender, which might be unintended. Non verbal signals we could spot in a face to face communication are lost and as a result meanings can be misinterpreted.
So, to all ‘mini gentlemen’, I apologise for raising your hopes and expectations.
Maybe next time the dealership will pause thoughtfully?
Maybe we all should?