And the award for good punctuation goes to . . . none of these signs. Why? Well, take a look.
The first comes from a fence around a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. (Yes, this blog is about language in New York City, but even a grammarian needs a vacation from time to time.) Where would you add punctuation?
Is this direct address? Are the mansion-owners calling me (or any other sightseer) a “bad dog”? And who’s being ordered to “keep off fence” — the property or the dog? I don’t know. I do know that there are no bad dogs, just bad sign-writers.
Another muddle for you to solve:
I assume the contractor didn’t have time to add punctuation marks to this notice. Too bad, because you can punctuate it this way:
Construction zone? No.
Authorized personnel only permitted beyond this point.
Hear that, authorized personnel? There’s no building going on here. Wait behind the barricade until we call you. Regular people, feel free to walk wherever you like.
This one needs more than punctuation:
No, I didn’t add the duct tape. I resisted the temptation to peel it off to see what was underneath. Maybe it said “keep right” or “keep left”? Theories welcome.