The Panda Approach to Punctuation

Posted on August 18, 2010

 

It is well documented by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) that business people have a low opinion of the literacy skills of some of the UK workforce. Bosses complain about the poor quality of curriculum vitae (CVs) that pass over their desks. Often applicants do not take the time to proof read their CVs for spelling and punctuation. As well as relevant qualifications and experience, business people are looking for a workforce that can communicate well and bad grammar reflects a poor level in this skill.

Old fashioned English grammar and punctuation are important but have become increasingly marginalised due to the rapid rise of the internet and the mobile phone. Text speak and writing is the norm for a lot of young people, contributing even further to grammar and punctuation confusion. This is highlighted by the panda joke cited by Lyn Truss in her 2003 book on punctuation, showing how the entire meaning of a sentence can be altered with a simple punctuation error.

A panda walks into a restaurant and orders a sandwich. He eats it, produces a gun and shoots the customers. The surviving waiter asks, “Why?” In reply the panda throws him a nature reserve brochure and he reads ‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’

Marketing and promotion can be costly and no-one wants the website with glaring grammatical errors. The way to avoid this is to outsource writing for web copy, business advertising and blogs. Reputable agencies use only writers with the required native tongue, such as UK copywriters, and employ in-house editors to spot errors before they are published, avoiding any confusion with pandas.

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