Tag Archives: periods

Punctuation Problems

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.

Access permitted.

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.

“Punctuation”; Puzzles.

The title looks strange — on purpose — and it’s no stranger than the random addition or removal of periods, commas, and quotation marks in NYC’s signs. I wrote about the placement of periods in “Stop Full Stop” (http://www.grammarianinthecity.com/?p=1364). In this post I expand on the puzzles of punctuation. First up is this photo, which my friend Erica Berenstein sent me:

Can you spot the period?

Can you spot the period?









Reluctantly leaving aside the issue of capital letters, I can’t figure out the marketing advantage of placing a period after “dream” and nowhere else. True, the list separates the clauses (subject-verb pairs), but then why place any periods at all in this ad?

Microsoft takes a different approach to punctuation, as you see in these messages that popped up on my screen during a recent update:

And the comma is there because . . .?

And the comma is there because . . .?


The first part of the statement seems to be a shortened form of “we are getting things ready,” an independent clause. But if that’s the intended construction, the rules of Standard English don’t allow you to attach the first independent clause to the second (“Please don’t turn off your PC”) with a comma. Another possible interpretation is that “getting things ready” is an introductory participle, in which case the participle should modify the subject of the following clause. The problem with this explanation is that the subject of “please don’t turn off your PC” is an implied “you.” But “you” aren’t getting things ready. Microsoft is, or so it claims. By the way, there’s a period missing after “PC.” With such attention to detail, the upgrade promises to be buggy at best.

Here’s another Microsoft gem:




Okay, the words make sense, and the sentence begins with a capital letter. It ends with . . . nothing. No period. No exclamation point. Not even a question mark, which, given the state of internet security these days, would be more than appropriate.

Last one. Can anyone find a reason for these quotation marks?









I’m stumped. Feel free to send in your theories, properly punctuated, of course!

Stop full stop.

I’m not against periods, the punctuation mark the British call “full stops.” But everything has its place. Traditionally, periods appear at the end of sentences that make statements or give commands. They’re also used in abbreviations. Lately, though, periods have been popping up in odd positions, as in this sign in front of a coffee shop:

And the period is there because?

Why is there a period after “birch”?









The shop’s name is “Birch” — I think. It may be “Birch.” Or is it “Birch. coffee”? And why is the period there at all? Is it supposed to add authority or emphasis? Perhaps the store owner wanted to give a sense of completion, as in “sip your latte here and your life will be complete.” The only thing I know for sure is that the punctuation mark doesn’t indicate a command. (“Hey you! Birch now or face the consequences!) Nor does it end a statement, because there is no statement.

I expect strange things from retailers, but somehow I thought that religious institutions, with help from the Almighty, would do better. At least I thought so until I spied this sign:

This church needs heavenly punctuation guidance.

This church needs heavenly punctuation guidance.


True, this sign contains more words than the café sign, but they don’t form a sentence. The church indeed appears to be “warm, welcoming and beautiful,” but not grammatical.

Nor can you count on the banking system to come to a full stop (in punctuation or in finance):

Two nonsensical, non-sentences appear in one sign.

Two nonsensical, non-sentences appear in one sign.









I don’t expect “pleasure” from my bank. Do you? The “2% cash back” sounds great — but 2% of what? And back to whom? I can’t blame the Great Recession on faulty punctuation, but a lack of clarity in bank communications appears in both. Just saying.

My advice: For a period of time, let’s agree to put a stop to unnecessary full stops. Then we can  decide whether to give this punctuation mark additional duties. That is, “Extra. Duties.”