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Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma
The Greengrocer's' Apostrophe strike's again!

Rimmer: After intensive investigation, comma, of the markings on the alien pod, comma, it has become clear, comma, to me, comma, that we are dealing, comma, with a species of awesome intellect, colon.
Holly: Good. Perhaps they might be able to give you a hand with your punctuation.
Red Dwarf, "Waiting for God"

Sometimes, a particular convention, grammar, or usage glitch will kill a viewer's Willing Suspension of Disbelief, driving him straight out of the text he is reading. This trope is all about those sorts of glitches.

Named for Sam Vimes' description of one of the distinguishing features of Captain Carrot's writing. Many Discworld citizens regard punctuation as something required, but that inclusion is enough in and of itself. Members of the Guild of Greengrocer's even pepper their speech with incorrect punctuation on occasion, which seems like Psmith Psyndrome until you realise that these people are genuinely misspeaking in accordance with how their miswritten signs imply that they should be read.

Related to Rouge Angles of Satin, and most definitely a Berserk Button of any Grammar Nazi. No Punctuation Period and Tenses are subtropes.

Obligatory Tropes Are Not Bad disclaimer: every rule of the English language is there for a reason. Most of them are like driving laws: they enhance safety and help keep things organized. But once you know why those rules exist, it's possible to break them safely, without causing any crashes and maybe even avoiding them. But that takes work and practice; if you can't get it right when you do it correctly, you sure can't get it right when you do it wrong. So, kids: Don't Try This at Home.

Please try to avoid sounding like a Grammar Nazi when adding examples. Remember also, for the purpose of keeping oneself sane, that language, especially English, changes throughout time. What you think is a mistake may soon become so common, that it is the norm, and in twenty years, your descendants will be correcting you for doing it the old way.

Self-demonstrating examples are all right, but please, for the sake of readability, try not to go overboard.

Examples'

    open/close all folders 

    Over-Punctuation 
  • As shown in the Red Dwarf quote, found at the top of the page, the overpresence, or abundance, one might say, of commas is a phenomenon which, to some, can, seemingly, cause frustration.
    • Sentences, like the one above, where every comma has a defensible, albeit overly fussy, reason for being there, are less aggravating, than sentences, where commas, are just thrown, in, wherever the speaker might pause, to take a breath.
      • There's some logic behind using punctuation, to indicate pauses, because that's what they were invented for. The first punctuation marks, were seen in Greek plays, and indicated, where the actor should insert, a Dramatic Ellipsis, with the mark itself, denoting the length, of, the pause. Having said that, it's no longer the time of Christ, so try not to punctuate, as if it were.
  • Some writers like to use ellipses in place of commas which... besides being infuriating to those who understand the proper use of the ellipsis... makes it look like the writer is either leaving out a lot or just struggling to think of a way to end the sentence (or is William Shatner). In addition.... the number of periods used in said ellipses tends to vary wildly..... anywhere from the standard three (or four at the end of a sentence, to be overly technical)................................................................. to infinity and beyond.
  • Exclamation points do not stack!!! Not even when you're writing out dialog for BRIAN BLESSED!
    • Nor are exclamation points to be used when someone is speaking calmly. For some reason, people like to put an exclamation point at the end of a quote where the original delivery was entirely deadpan.
      • In many languages exclamation marks are used a lot as a mark of imperative: "Go to your room!" often gets an exclamation mark even if it isn't shouted. This doesn't mean it has to: "Go to your room" is still perfectly valid.
      • Once in a while, amazing as it sounds, there is a reason for this. In old comic books the printing was so shoddy that an isolated dot could easily be left out, so many classic comics end every single sentence with an exclamation mark just to make sure there would be something.
    • "And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head."
  • Did you know that question marks don't stack, either?? Are you aware that several question marks at the end of a statement aren't needed to make people know how confused you are about something???? One is enough, you know???????? Do you see how redundant this is????????????????
  • Use of "quotation marks" for "emphasis," which make readers think you're being "sarcastic."
    • Often happens by accident on this very wiki, when editors get the ''italics markup'' wrong.
    • Also using "Quotation" marks to "isolate" any word that might be seen as "racy" or "unusual" or is in the "slightest bit of doubt." Reading text like this is infinitely more fun if you do "finger quotes" every time it comes up.
      • The technical term is Scare Quotes, referring to the idea that the author is scared of the term and wants to distance himself from it.
    • Furthermore, technically, punctuation should only go inside the quotation marks when quoting the sentence, and not just for "a few words". Quotations for "emphasis" usually fall "under this". "Do you see what I'm saying?"
      • It gets worse—commas and periods follow this logical rule everywhere except America, where they go inside quotation marks at all times. The reason? Handset type in printing presses—periods and commas by themselves tended to get knocked out of alignment, so they were tucked inside the wider—and therefore heavier—quotation marks for safety. British typesetters evidently preferred the other way.
    • Behold thy savior: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks!
    • This is actually correct in Japanese (well, they use corner brackets (「...」) instead of quotation marks ("..."), but it's the same concept). However, that doesn't mean you can leave it when translating a manga, since then you'll make the dialogue sound funny.
  • The Greengrocers' Apostrophe: the use of an apostrophe to warn people that there's an "s" on the end of the word. Apple's $0.99 per pound! Apparently the other Wiki indicates that a major grocery chain sort of overcorrects for this.
    • This is made worse when the plural form is inherently different from the singular, like when the grocer has a sale on "potatoe's" or "peach'es."
    • For some reason this error is particularly common in Japan. Thus video games have received titles such as Y'snote , 8 Eye's, Pig's and Bomber's, Ninja Master's and Steam Heart's. While the title of Ninja Princess is free of such spurious apostrophes, its beginning screen does say "Princess'es Adventure Starts."
    • The erroneous apostrophe-s ending is also quite common in Swedish (but found chiefly on signs put up by small businesses, so greengrocers indeed). Here it is mostly understood as an anglicism.
    • There used to be a hairdresser's shop in Wautoma, Wisconsin named "Hi's and Her's Hair Salon".
    • Also, the 3rd person present singular form of a verb should not have an apostrophe. It should be "Bob reads a book", not "Bob read's a book".
    • In Norwegian, the erroneous apostrophe-s ending is not unusual. In Norwegian, the genitive is formed by adding an -s, but not an apostrophe (unless the word ends in -s, -x, or -z, in which case you only add an apostrophe and not an -s).
  • The use of + to mean "and". This is only acceptable in handwriting, where many people substitute a plus sign for the ampersand on the understandable grounds that "&" is hard to write. But seriously, if you're on a keyboard, you've got the "&" right there. Why would you use a "+"? In Boolean algebra, "+" is actually used for the "or" operator.
    • For those unclear on the last bit, boolean is essentially binary that ignores all but the last digit, true = 1, and false = 0. So '+' is an "exclusive" or, since false + false = false, true + true = false, and true + false = true. There is a separate operation for the "inclusive" or where both things being compared being true also makes the statement true. If you want to be confused again, look up the symbology used by circuit designers, which inverts this again (+ becomes inclusive or and a celtic cross is used for exclusive).
  • To quote the sig of a GameFAQs user:
    — Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
  • Did you know that mixing exclamation points and question marks is technically wrong?! You didn't know you have to choose one or the other!? You've never heard of the interrobang‽ I'm not surprised. It's non-standard. But if you insist on writing incredulous statements that require both and aren't willing to compromise on one or the other, you should probably get to know U+203D.

    Under-Punctuation 
  • Overuse of commas is bad but to some readers nothing drives them up the wall quite like no commas whatsoever because it sounds like the author is speaking without pause going on and on and on and on giving no hint of when a pause in speech is happening and destroying what logical flow exists in the text making it impossible to follow let alone read out loud. (And given the reasons behind punctuation's invention as detailed above we tropers are not smoking something by claiming their lack is the same as a lack of pauses.)
    • The non-use of commas in favour of "or" in a list of things such as shopping or tools or books or animals or foods or games or other things is also annoying.
    • The perfect example of the importance of commas: compare "No, don't stop!" with "No, don't, stop!" Another example: "Let's eat, Grandma!" versus "Let's eat Grandma!"
    • As with any rule, underuse of commas can still be done right. The Great Gatsby is notorious for its lack of them, and considering that Fitzgerald spent hours choosing individual words, it's unlikely that he left any commas out by accident.
      • Although he did make a few errors in his word choice (referring to the retina as a visible part of the eye, for example), so it's still possible.
    • Sometimes, the lack of commas is acceptable in a form of media, often to make the author sound like a Motor Mouth.
    • However adverbials at the start of sentences are often mistaken for conjunctions, leading to the omission of a necessary comma. In even worse cases longer phrases which are clearly not conjunctions will lack commas as well.
    • Some writers have formed the mistaken idea that "and" should never be preceded by a comma. A comma marks a pause, and often helps to clarify the overall sentence structure. In particular, it's often necessary when a sentence contains both an "and" conjoning two nouns and an "and" conjoining two clauses. For example: "Today I will wash my house and my car, and book a flight." Without the comma, the reader is momentarily misled into including "book" as one of the things washed. The following words immediately clarify, but why cause the reader any problem at all when it's so easily avoided?
  • Another one often found on the Internet is lack of question marks when appropriate. It can be useful for asking questions flatly, but otherwise, why on Earth do people do this.
  • In extreme cases theres No Punctuation Period
    • this is even worse when its all lowercase
  • Poor little-known, seldom-used hyphen. Many people seems to have a deep-seated hatred of this too-discreet punctuation mark — or don't even know it exists. From seven-year-old schoolchildren to seventy-year-old veterans, no-one uses it any more. And still, it's a quite easy-to-implement means of word-linking for making clearly-readable statements, whether in complex or not-so-complex texts.
    • Perhaps it is an issue with it being difficult to find on a standard keyboard, and people just not being comfortable using a tiny, easy-to-lose, minus symbol instead of a proper hyphen. Compare - with —.
      • Isn't a hyphen (-) for double-barrelled words or names, tmesis-usage (abso-bloody-lutely), and combining-words-to-make-them-link-more-clearly — while an em-dash (—) is the punctuation to create an almost-unrelated subclause in a sentence?
      • Correct. And since a double-barrelled word has one hyphen, a triple-barrelled word naturally has two, and so on. Many writers seem to have an absolute phobia of multiple hyphens, and will write "six year-old children" instead of "six-year-old children", thus changing the meaning completely.
  • People who don't close their parentheses (this is very annoying.
    • And also, people using parentheses inside parentheses. Besides the fact it is considered bad style (you shouldn't use more than one set (otherwise it can get really confusing (by disturbing the flow of the text) to the reader (forcing him to backtrack again and again)) inside a sentence), when having to do so you should use different punctuation (parenthesis first [then square brackets {then curly brackets}]) for the secondary and tertiary interruptions inside the parentheses, as to make it easier to know which phrase is being closed. (Not a hard rule, but it really makes comprehension easier.)
      • The switching parenthesis type rule probably originates in typesetting practices for mathematical formulae, but there is was primarily a substitute for larger parenthesis sizes, and is now essentially obsolete (although practice varies between different branches of mathematics, with switching being more common close to Physics). Brackets for a parenthesis can be justified as a way of stressing that what they surround constitutes a natural whole. Braces for a parenthesis are almost never seen except in some fixed notation involving Laplace (and the like) transforms, since their main interpretation nowadays would be that of denoting the set of what the braces surround.
      • Just be sure to nest them properly (the parentheses [unless you want to confuse someone) like computer programmers].
      • Computer programmers are used to using several parens nested inside one another, and sometimes find it annoying when the type of parens switch, because different parens mean different things! Like { methods returning (various things from array_entries[21]);}
      • Switching type of parenthesis can be just as wrong in natural language. In a quote, brackets usually delimit remarks [sic!] or edits by the quoting author, so if nested parentheses are turned into brackets then the result could get very hard to quote properly.
      • And God forbid it when someone both uses parentheses within parentheses and doesn't close them. (Honestly, this is the most annoying thing ever. (This is bad enough on places like YouTube (Less forgivable on conversation-based sites like forums.)
      • Most style guides forbid the use of nested parentheses except in the case of symbolic use (such as math equations or programming examples). If you really must break into a parenthetical note with another, internally separated idea (which is almost never strictly necessary — though it can be useful for certain stylistic purposes), the correct method is to either use an em-dash or restructure the whole sentence to avoid the problem entirely.
      • The general term for all these kinds of punctuation is brackets. The terms for the various kinds differ, often along the lines of American and British English: () = AE: parentheses, BE: (round) brackets; [] = AE: brackets, BE: square brackets; {} = braces (sometimes known as curly brackets); ⟨⟩ = angle brackets, or chevrons (<> is sometimes used as a poor man's set of angle brackets). For programmers, who use most of these regularly, they are (usually) parens, square brackets, curlies, and angle brackets (in this case almost always using the less-than/greater-than characters). The text within (any kind of) brackets is known as a parenthesis.
  • "James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher" is a perfect example of what happens when punctuation goes awry.
  • Though the overuse of exclamation marks is well known, it can be just as distracting not to see one where you might reasonably expect to, such as in dialogue when the tag is something like "yelled", "shrieked" or (especially) "exclaimed".
  • One extremely common error is the absence of commas at the end of dialogue. For example; "This looks bad" he said. This is fairly minor, but it can be annoying when it occurs too often.
    • Or "This looks bad." He said. It creates a stop in the sentence which makes the "he said" sound awkward and out of place.
      • The thing about quotation marks is that they are, to a certain extent, superfluous; the sentence should make sense without them. So try taking them out. This looks bad he said. and This looks bad. He said. are pretty clearly both wrong. This looks bad, he said., in contrast, is quite clear, and practically doesn't need the quotation marks put back in. That's why it's correct.

    Miscapitalization 
  • OVERUSE OF ALL-CAPITAL LETTERS FOR EMPHASIS TO THE POINT WHERE YOU'RE FACING A GIGANTIC BLOCK OF IMPENETRABLE ALL-CAPS TEXT, IN OTHER WORDS, THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE DESIRED EFFECT. Rampant in terms of use, other forms of contract, and warning labels.
    • In EULAs that may be the desired effect.
    • This can be done for effect, in small amounts, particularly as a text-based LARGE HAM! But by god a long block of text in all capitals is the most evil thing in existence.
    • EVEN WORSE: THERE ARE ACTUALLY INTERNET POSTERS OUT THERE WHO OVERUSE CAPITALIZATION SO MUCH THEY HAVE TO USE lowercase TO ADD EMPHASIS.
    • Some Internet fora will change any post in all-caps so that it capitalizes only the first letter of every word. It's a nice compromise since it prevents you having to read all-caps, while still allowing you to deride those attempting to use them.
  • Capitalizing The First Letter Of Every Word Does Not Make You Look Smart, People That Do It. Even If It Took All That Extra Effort.
  • Capitalizing odd Words in the middle of Sentences may have been common in the 18th century, but not any more. Back then, most nouns were capitalized (the same thing is still done in German).
    • Capitalizing Random Words actually has an effect on how you can Read them (pausing before the word and emphasizing the capitalized word), as well as the Sense you derive from them (you can actually cause the reader to perceive a different lexical entry, even a different pronunciation: lima, Lima). This makes certain Capital Letters very useful in certain Contexts, but obviously suffers from overuse as much as the next writing Convention.
  • complete lack of capitalization even when needed, on the other hand, is not much better. capitals are integral part of the rules for spelling. there is no excuse for ignoring them. whether you are called e.e. cummings, jack, peter, or alice, or that your birth language is english, french, german or spanish... it just shows writers who don't care (or don't even know what the shift key is for).
    • ah (but?) eecummings, use-d p!unctu ation: at times albeit— rather. idiosyncratically,,,
    • cummings disregarded punctuation as a stylistic choice to say something about his writing or emphasize where he did use punctuation. he did know what proper punctuation was.
    • intentional lack of capitalization can be used stylistically to make text feel less formal, more laid back or more down to earth, and especially to suggest the writer isn't stuffy or anal. punctuation may or may not be altered from formal usage.
    • it can make the writer look anally informal though.
    • and it can be difficult for dyslexics to decipher. do you mean john or john?
    • if you ever use all lowercase without punctuation you should probably just give up on whatever you were trying to say
  • AnD nEvEr EvEr AlTeRnAtE-cApS mEsSaGeS unLEsS yoU'Re wRItiNg a RANsoM nOTe; iT's JuSt HoRrIbLe To ReAd. SaDlY sOmE pEoPlE aCtUaLlY tYpE lIkE tHiS....
  • This is why correct capitalization is important. Compare:
    • "I had to help my Uncle Jack off a horse."
    • "I had to help my uncle jack off a horse."
  • Harry Potter fanfic writers take note: in J.K. Rowling's books, the word Muggle is always and without exception capitalized. The same goes for most wizarding vocabulary, with only words that already in common usage (such as "wizard", "broomstick" and "unicorn") not being so.
    • Note that this is ENTIRELY incorrect. English has specific capitalization rules, and muggle really shouldn't be capitalized any more than black should be. The reason is simple: while people capitalize nationalities (saying that someone or something is American, for instance), the reason for this is that they are derived from a proper noun. As muggle is not, it shouldn't be capitalized, and indeed in common parlance it is not.

    Just Plain Wrong 
  • An error whose commonness almost makes itself a trope is using the abbreviation "i.e." to mean "for example." This is wrong, wrong, wrong. "e.g." means "exempli gratia," or "for example." "i.e." means "id estnote ," or "that is." Use i.e. for clarification and e.g. for demonstration. There is some overlap in meaning, but it's important to know the difference.
    • To provide an example of why this is wrong: "Young mammals, i.e. (that is) kittens, are usually cute" or "Young mammals, e.g. (for example) kittens, are usually cute"?
  • "Said Bookisms are unnecessary!" a troper complained.
    • Neil Gaiman (paraphrased): "Said" is like the arrow of a word balloon, more a reading aid than an actual word. Use it consistently and it becomes invisible.
    • Incidentally, the same also applies to "asked".
    • That said (sorry), when you have two pages of conversation and every line starts with 'Foo said' or ends with 'Bar said', that's not much better. Although this may be a symptom of wandering onto the Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue.
    • Dialogue tags other than said are effective only if they are used sparingly, in places where they clarify or (occasionally) emphasize the dialogue. Overuse doesn't simply annoy the reader: it diminishes the effect of the words themselves, to the point where they are virtually meaningless. If every character "exclaims" every line, the word will not have the desired effect, or any effect at all, when one actually does "cry out; say something violently or vehemently" (the dictionary definition of the word "exclaim").
    • Tagging the speaker's names before his/her dialogue can solve this transparently: you identify the speaker quickly and it doesn't intrude into the flow of the narration. Movies scripts, video game captions, interactive novels, This Very Wiki,... all of them have been narrating this way without calling your attention to it.
    Alice: "Poor sod got cut off the line, never reached his ex again."
    Bob: "Saw that coming."
    Charlie: "Lovely, so that's why you called her his ex."
    • This doesn't work in every medium, so know what medium you're writing for and be aware. Using "he said" as a verbal comma in a novel to build suspense in the middle of a sentence is perfectly acceptable. While you don't want to see "he said" or "she said" before or after every line of dialogue in a novel, be aware that when reading it out loud to an audience those omitted tags become critically important unless you're Mel Blanc. So put them in for public readings or recordings. Your listener will thank you.
  • Due to the fact that it can be seen a lot on this very wiki, it might be worth mentioning that "due to the fact that" is unwieldy and should not be used. You can usually do the same thing with "because (reason)" ("Because I've seen it a lot...") or "due to (reason)", and if not, you should probably rework the sentence anyway.
    • Inversion: Because the word "because" is a subordinating conjunction, many people think you are never supposed to begin a sentence with one, even if that's only when it ends up making it a sentence fragment. This is likely caused by students losing points when they are supposed to answer in complete sentences, but only put "Because (answer)."
      • "Since". "Since" is good, too.
      • The word "because" is replaceable with a semicolon. "I like pancakes because they taste delicious and are a good breakfast" becomes "I like pancakes; they taste delicious and are a good breakfast."
      • The sentences "I like pancakes because they taste delicious and are a good breakfast." and "Because they taste delicious and are a good breakfast, I like pancakes." mean the same thing at a grammatical and semantic level. Which you use is influenced by matters of prosody; the latter emphasises that you like pancakes in particular, while the former puts the emphasis on why.
  • And,besides merely improper use of punctuation,there are also those who seems to think that adding a space after a comma,a period,a semicolon,or any other sign is optional.Not so;the space is an integral part of the punctuation.There may be some debate whether you should put one or two spaces after a full stop,but zero isn't an option.Especially in word-processed text(or HTML),where the space is the only thing telling the computer where it can break the line.Without it,words clusters together and it can result in irregular line feeds,making paragraphs look ugly.And most spellcheckers don't like it,either.
  • Orwhataboutnospacesatall?Wouldn'tthatbequiteannoying,too?
    • Though sometimes this is done intentionally to represent the hastened speech of a Motor Mouth.
    • There's a reason spaces were invented in the first place. The oldest manuscripts have no spaces at all, and trying to make sense of them is a big job.
  • Some languages, such as Swedish, have a lot of compound words. This means that putting spaces where spaces should not be, or removing spaces that should be there, can have a large impact on the meaning (every day vs the days of the workweek, something being brown-haired vs something being brown and hairy, etc.). It would be Ambiguous Syntax, except the syntax is perfectly clear.
    • The organization Astronomer mot orddeling exists to conteract this in Norwegian because in Norwegian too, compound words are usually written without spaces. The website provides examples of funny misunderstandings that are caused by misusing spaces in compound words, for example "blind vei" (blind road) instead of "blindvei" (dead end).
    • Phonetic Japanese has no spaces, which can be frustrating. Actually, Japanese period has no spaces, but vertically written ideograms don't need them much. Unfortunately, you don't see Japanese written vertically in pure ideograms as often as you did in previous centuries. The fact that they've standardized kanji more than makes up for that, but it's still a headache if you're not used to having to work out where words end.
    • Reading a passage rendered mostly in kana is difficult even for a native speaker (well, reader). When written in kanji, however, it's much easier to determine where one word ends and another starts.
    • HEY.GUYS.USiNG.THE.iNTERPUNCT.MAKES.ME.LOOK.REALLY.COOL.RiGHT?
      • That should be "Hey·guys,·using·the·interpunct·makes·me·look·cool·right?", which honestly isn't that bad.
  • "When writing dialogue," Bob explained, "you should always add a paragraph break when a new person talks." Alice shook her head. "Why's that?" she asked. "Because if you don't, it becomes very difficult to tell who's talking at what time," Bob yelled.
    • As a corollary, when you paragraph-break a monologue, you always omit the end-paragraph quotation marks for all but the last paragraph of the monologue; doing so lets the readers know the paragraphs are still being spoken by the person doing the monologue, and not by anyone else, or is a non-speaking paragraph.
    • "As a second corollary, remember that dialogue tags are never capitalized." Said Bob. "Do you mean that I should keep them lower case even when I end a sentence with a question mark?" Asked Alice. "Yes." Said Bob. "You should also keep in mind that if the sentence would normally end with a period, the period should be replaced with a comma— but only if the period comes before the dialogue tag,"
    • "Fourth of all," continued Bob, "the speaker and his/her actions belong in the same paragraph."
      "Why is that, Bob?" asked Alice.
      "Because otherwise, the readers could get confused and mistake who is speaking." Alice persisted.
      "But shouldn't quotes begin a paragraph?" Bob shook his head.
      "Not necessarily." Alice shrugged.
    • As mentioned above, it's possible to break rules if you really know what you're doing. The new-paragraph-for-new-speaker rule is one of the ones you see broken most frequently: one character says something, and the description of other characters' reaction include dialogue. Because a paragraph break would kill the flow, the rule is discarded and one kind of readability trumps another.
  • And in a similar vein, there's the Block Paragraph Of Doom, where the writer fails to break up the story into paragraphs at all. Not bad in a drabble, but tedious to the point of tl;dr in a multi-chapter fic.
    • Conversely, The Sun and the other tabloids often seem to think it's obligatory to start a new paragraph with each sentence. Wrong. Start a new paragraph when there is a new thought; the first sentence states the theme of the paragraph, and subsequent sentences clarify it.
      • Many would dispute whether the typical tabloid article involves any thought - other than "I hate x" - at all.
  • Very few people seem to get cannot vs. can not right, and write can not where it should be cannot. Even raging Grammar Nazis routinely get this one wrong. With cannot, negation has scope over the modal ("not possible to X"); in the case of can not, conversely, the modal has scope over negation ("possible to not X"). John cannot go to school means that John lacks the ability to go to school; John can not go to school means that he has the option not to go to school.
    • Not necessarily the option. This brings us to the oft-encountered mistake of people confusing may and can. No, it's not just "polite" to use "May I?" instead of "Can I?"; "May I?" is actually the more logical choice because can refers to one's ability to do something, whereas may refers to permission.
      • If people are really bugged by this, try thinking of it as an abbreviation: "Can I do X?" is a short version of "Can I do X without you getting mad at me?"
      • This is actually a myth, perpetuated by generations of schoolteachers. "Can" in this context has been correct since the 19th century except in formal writing.
      • After all, isn't "may" just a word denoting possibility, just like "can"? "I may not be able to make it tonight."
    • Back to the original: a potential workaround is to exploit the beloved but underused hyphen. "John cannot run" and "John can not-run" clearly mean two different things, and the hyphen links the negation to the thing it negates. However, this is less intuitive and should only be used if the awkward construction is, you know, all necessary-ish.
      • A more intuitive way of doing this is use of italics: John can not run. This does run the risk of confusion with an emphatic "cannot", but it tracks typical usage, especially because the construction is most commonly used when stating multiple options:" John can go to school, or he can not go to school; the choice is his."
  • One increasingly common error on the Internet is typing a semicolon instead of a colon. For a while it seemed like a misconception about where semicolons belong (it was especially common in cases where a comma or dash would have worked as well), but now it's starting to crop up between titles and subtitles (for example "Breakin' 2; Electric Boogaloo"), so it's hard to tell if this is a grammatical error or people's shift keys failing at inopportune times.
  • A dash and a hyphen are not the same thing — way too many people use single hyphens for dashes-without even any spaces around them-and create confusion for people who rightly attempt to read the hyphenated words as conjoined words. Doubling a hyphen, enclosing it in spaces, or both, is enough to serve as a substitute dash if you don't know how to create the real thing, although in publication (as well as formal papers) real dashes are expected, so it's best to learn how. (For the record, double hyphens now auto-convert to dashes on this Wiki, so you don't have to muck about with HTML character codes or memorize the keyboard code to type the real thing.)
  • If you restructure your sentence so that you don't end it with a preposition... then make sure you don't double up. I don't know for what reason people do this for.
    • Perhaps the most common example of this is correcting for the old who vs whom issue, and then duplicating the preposition. Somebody thinks they shouldn't say "Who are we here for?" and "corrects" it into "For whom are we here for?"
    • Better yet, forget about the old bugaboo about not ending sentences with prepositions. It's a rule that was made up by people who were ignorant of the way English grammar actually works. It comes from a rule in Latin grammar: In Latin, a preposition must be followed by its object, otherwise there is no way to tell the object of the preposition.
      • Apocryphally, Winston Churchill was once told he couldn't end a sentence with a preposition. His response? "That is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put."
    • State "you get what you pay for" in a way that has the same meaning, does not end with a preposition, and does not have significantly more words.
      • "That for which you pay, you get."
  • Quotation marks vary between regional versions of English. In American English, punctuation always goes inside of the quotes, unless doing so would change the meaning of the quote, or if it's a colon or semicolon. It doesn't matter if you are using single or double quotes as appropriate for your style standards; these same rules apply.
    • And in British English, punctuation goes inside the quotes if and only if it's part of what is being quoted. For instance, "John wrote the word 'cat', and then crossed it out." The comma isn't part of the word 'cat', so it goes outside.
    • Exceptions where Americans deliberately employ the "British" usage do exist. It's most common when discussing computers— where, for instance, "rm -r *." is a different command from "rm -r *".
  • "it's" versus "its". The former is the contraction of "it is" (or "it has"), the latter is the neuter possessive. A good rule of thumb is, if the words "it is" don't fit in the sentence, use "its". For example, "The dog scratched it's balls" would be wrong. It just looks completely nonsensical, unless it's supposed to be a run-on sentence and the dog's name is "Balls."
    • Related, "who's" versus "whose". The former means "who is/has", the latter indicates possession. Consider: A car is being advertised for sale. You might ask, "Whose car is being sold?" or, "Who's the current owner of the car?"
  • Speaking of contractions, some people don seem to realize just how important finishing certain contractions are. Some people can seem to finish contractions ending in "'t", which can become confusing when certain words come up. In some cases, the context can clarify the usage, but other times it can without causing confusion. Readable version 
  • Then there are those who overuse "then" to connect a sequence of events. Then someone reads the work and stumbles over the verbal tic. Then the author wonders how he can avoid overusing "and" or "but" instead. Then the reader explains that "then" usually goes after the subject of the clause, and is not a conjunction. Then the writer has to start all over.
    • Speaking of "then", there's the then versus than issue. "Then" is used to sequence events as described above, "than" is used to denote the use of one option over another. For example, "I'd rather go to the movies than go to the park," means that the speaker prefers the option of going to the movies over the option of going to the park, while "I'd rather go to the movies then to the park," means that the speaker prefers to go to the movies and go to the park afterwards.
  • It's possible to replace parentheses, if you really must, with other punctuation marks. Emdashes work — it's one of their alternative uses — as do commas. However, if you are doing this, please — for the love of god) don't switch from one to the other halfway through.
  • A sentence that begins with "I wonder" should end with something other than a question mark, as the sentence is declarative, not interrogative. Otherwise, the sentence would be the speaker wondering if he or she is actually wondering something specific. I wonder why this mistake is so common.
    • It is acceptable to use a question mark and the phrase "I wonder" in the same sentence provided there is a comma after "I wonder". An example would be "I wonder, how many examples does this trope have?" as opposed to "I wonder how many examples this trope has."

Example's from specific media:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • A mildly famous scene from Preacher: "Improper use of inverted commas, Hoover! Improper use of inverted commas!!"
  • In The Boys (also by Garth Ennis), Hughie reads a comic book out loud: "an' he's goin'... I hope this hurts —in bold— every bit as much —in bold— as what you did —in bold— to that boyin bold... Why do they do that anyway? It's really annoyin' trynna read it, it makes it like stop-start, stop-start, stop-start, you know?"
  • Deadpool lampshaded his own overuse of the ellipsis by announcing he was "talking like...Shatner".
  • As a general rule, Silver Age Marvel comics would end every single sentence with an exclamation point! Justified a bit, as Stan Lee actually talks like that! Excelsior!
    • Same thing about movie / TV series parodies in MAD.
    • This might be because full stops didn't end up getting printed out very well. Later on, full stops would unnecessarily replace exclamation marks, losing some dramatic effect along the way.
  • As pointed out above in the capitalization section, Delirium of The Sandman comics frequently misuses capital letters. She also tends to go without commas and periods sometimes when she's rambling. Justified somewhat in that she's the Anthropomorphic Personification of crazy.
  • The Mad Hatter from Batman as written by Jeph Loeb speaks in aLterNATinG cAPs.
  • DOCTOR DOOM possesses the power to speak all in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS. This has been noticed and commented on by other characters besides the ususal Meta Guy's.
  • Speech Bubbles in general tend to be printed in ALL CAPS. The Ultimates specifically doesn't do that.

    Comic Strips 

    Eastern Animation 
  • The old Soviet-era cartoon The Land of Skipped Homeworks (Страна не? ыученных уроко?) had one phrase that later became the '''direct''' illustration of this trope. The protagonist, Victor Perestukkin, a labrake kid and his cat (talking cat during his travels) Kuzya had to pass various obstacles... straightly based on the homework he skipped, as the title implies. The mentioned illustration comes in the point where the Master Verb gives him a final task: finish writing his death order by putting only one comma in the correct sentence: Execute not pardon.

    Fan Works 
  • The Crowning Moment of Funny in the Harry Potter fanfic My Immortal: "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MOTHERFUKERS!" It was................................. Dumbledore!
  • While it runs across the board in this author's work, comma splicing is taken to the extremes in this piece.
  • Marie Birch, infamous figure in Red Dwarf internet fandom from the '90s. Known for putting, unnecessary commas, in all her fan fictions, like this, and, her fan fictions, were awful, to begin with.
  • Many MANY fanfics posted on Quizilla have examples of one or more items described above, because their site's terms of services doesn't punish submitters for not editing their works before submitting them. Do this on Fanfiction.net, and you run the risk of having it deleted. Bad use of the English language running the risk of deletion =/= the work in question actually being deleted.
  • If you are writing a Yiff fic in which a lutrine character claims that a certain part of his anatomy is "larger than most otters'", please, PLEASE remember the apostrophe.
    • In a similar but not identical manner, try and forget the capitalization in the sentence "I had to help my Uncle Jack off a horse." Come on, try it.
  • After Inception came out, a debate was started on the livejournal comm on which would make grammatical sense: Eames' Totem? Or Eames's Totem? Two pages of fierce debate later, and the conclusion seems to be... both.
  • If you're writing a Pokémon fic, make sure to put the names of Pokémon in caps. Otherwise half of the Pokémon-fic-reading population will stop in their tracks when reading over a sentence like "The pikachu fell on the ground, spiral-eyed". The other half, on the other hand, have it the opposite way.
  • The Girl Who Lived has many a run-on sentence. This is not missed by the sporkers.
  • Hogwarts Exposed is not kind to punctuation in general and semicolons in particular. Again, the sporkers have noticed. And like The Girl Who Lived, it also has more than its fair share of run-on sentences.
  • This Harry Potter fic. The second chapter alone is only five pages long on word processor, yet it has 357 commas.
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series struggles with this, especially in its earlier seasons - it's most notable whenever Swing 123 takes the helm. "Dr. BrainChill Part 1", in particular, is insane with its exclamation point usage.
    Dr. Brainstorm: Oh, shut up!! I'm telling you aliens are coming!! And with each passing second they're getting even closer!! And as soon as they get in range, I'm sending them my auto transmission to see if they respond!! THIS COULD FINALLY BE MY CHANCE TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!
  • Every other sentence in In This World and the Next is a comma splice, it gets very annoying very quickly, in the dialogue it reads as though everyone is hyperventilating.
  • This is pretty common in Swing 123's works, along with Rouge Angles of Satin.
  • There are a lot of comma splices in Knowledge is Power. As one reviewer put it: "I think someone once told [the author] not to write ten sentences where one would suffice and he misinterpreted it."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The title is a question, but there is no question mark. Supposedly it wasn't included because question marks are considered "bad luck" in the film industry. Do they really think all of the annoyed letters they're going to get when they don't include a question mark will be worth it?
    • That would seem to imply that the title is an answer, not a question. That is, "the man 'who framed Roger Rabbit'."
  • Two Weeks Notice. It looks much better as the correct Two Weeks' Notice.
  • Torgo from "Manos" The Hands of Fate emphasizes strange syllables. When fans quote him, they represent it with AlTeRnAtInG CaPs LiKe ThIs.
  • Averted in Bridget Jones's Diary. That apostrophe s means that the second word is pronounced "jone-ziz", but it is often misread as "Jones" (or incorrectly written as Jones' ) .
    • That gets tricky because whether it should be Jones' or Jones's varies by style guide. Some say that anything that ends in "s" should only get the apostrophe, others say that if it's singular it should get an apostrophe and an s. In the latter case the apostrophe alone is reserved for plural (and sometimes collective) nouns that end in s.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang features a grammar joke with a call back. First Harmony explains to Harry the difference between "feeling bad" and "feeling badly." Later on Harry tries to belittle "Gay" Perry using the same rule, but Perry's usage is correct, as he instantly points out:
    "Gay" Perry: What, fuckhead? Who taught you grammar? Badly's an adverb. Get out. Vanish.

    Jokes 
  • There's a famous joke about a misplaced comma in a nature brochure on panda bears. Instead of "Eats shoots and leaves" (meaning what pandas consume for food) it reads, "Eats, shoots and leaves," meaning that it eats, then uses a gun and leaves. This inspired the title of Lynne Truss' famous book.
    • Whoever composed that pamphlet really should have used a colon instead of a comma (but even that would have been unnecessary).
    • There's a variant where the Australian army adopts the wombat as its mascot, because, like a soldier, it eats, roots, shoots and leaves.

    Literature 
  • A rare in-universe example in The Lord of the Rings when the company was held up in front of the Mines of Moria where they thought the doors read "Speak, friend, and enter" where it should have been translated as "Say 'friend' and enter." It helps that Elvish doesn't use much punctuation, including quotation marks. In the books, it wasn't an intentional pun. The ambiguity due to lack of punctuation was pointed out by Merry and Gandalf tries it that way. The idea of it being a riddle is unique to the film adaptation.
  • The Twilight Saga series by Stephenie Meyer contains a copious amount of errors: Run-on sentences, poor punctuation and comma abuse, lack of capitalization, and fragments but a few examples.
  • Harry Harrison does comma splices, these are annoying. Supposedly, they're deliberate. He writes the book, then later goes through removing extra words and pauses in actiony parts in order to make it sound fast. Periods take longer than commas. Ironically, the incorrect punctuation is just going to slow most people down. The correct way to punctuate those sentences would be with a semicolon.
  • José Saramago is particularly guilty of this, with paragraphs that sometimes extend over 5 pages. He also sometimes uses no punctuation marks other than commas and periods, and doesn't explicitly indicate which character is speaking.
    • Saramago's "style" of punctuation is quite frequently mocked in his home country of Portugal. A high school Portuguese textbook featured a section on punctuation and an exercise featuring an excerpt of Saramago with the goal being to analyze its use. The kicker was that the author included a note on the margin reading "Please note that Saramago only uses punctuation in this manner for stylistic purposes and only in sections featuring dialog. In fact, outside of said sections, Saramago is actually more rigorous with punctuation than most Portuguese authors."
  • Discworld
    • In Maskerade, a character's growing madness is shown by his insistence on using multiple exclamation points. As is writing out an Evil Laugh.
    • Also in Reaper Man: "Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind."
    • Then there's Terry Pratchett's exten'sion (in Going Po'stal) of the ca'se of the greengrocer's apo'strophe, where one character's dialogue alway's had an apos'trophe next to each S. It i's mos't amu'sing.
    • And the origin of this trope's name: Captain Carrot, who like all good dwarfs writes home to the old mine on a regular basis — he also treats punctuation rather like a game of pin the tail on the donkey. And when swearing in new recruits to the Watch, he dictates the oath precisely down to the punctuation, leading to phrases such as "I swear by open bracket insert recruit's deity of choice here close bracket" (the less bright recruits then follow suit).
      • It isn't necessarily a mistake on Carrot's part. Reading the oath means that the recruits don't have to swear allegiance to the monarch, which in this case not everyone knows, is Carrot. He says that he doesn't want people to obey him because he is "... good at being obeyed", but because it is the law.
    • In Night Watch, Vimes gives the same oath when he joins the Watch after he accidentally travels into the past, meaning that, although odd, that is the way that all watchmen are sworn in.
      • It's not meant to be. Carrot is literal-minded, and Vimes was showing off that he knew the oath so well he could do it with all the correct punctuation as well.
    • There Is Also The Text Gag Of Golems Talking Like So, Likely Meant To Imply That They Are Very Loud And Demand Attention.
      • Or Perhaps That They Speak Like Robots.
      • That's the visual effect for Each Word Thudding Into Place Like A Stone Block.
  • James Joyce' Ulysses has a final chapter with only two full stops. Also, Joyce refused to capitalize religious words (jew, christian, jesuit) and hated quotation marks, instead using a dash to indicate a line of dialogue.
    • In the Thursday Next series, the lack of punctuation is explained. They were stolen.
  • "Certain" Dragonlance writers seem to be deathly afraid of conjunctions and skip right to the comma.
  • Lampooning this is how Lynne Truss made her name.
  • Justified in Flowers for Algernon, in which the narrator's use of punctuation improves and then declines in tandem with his augmented intellect. Charlie's two entries after Alice teaches him punctuation are overflowing with it. The next one contains a breakthrough as he's finally using punctuation properly.
    Today, I learned, the comma, this a comma (,) a period, with a tail, Miss Kinnian, says its important, because, it makes writing, better, she said, somebody, could lose, a lot of money, if a comma, isnt, in the, right place, I dont have, any money, and I dont see, how a comma, keeps you, from losing it,
  • There's a particularly disconcerting example of run-on sentences in the final book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, being well over two hundred words about the metaphor "in the dark", ballerinas, digging and a locked cabinet.
  • The Voynich Manuscript has no discernible forms of punctuation; there are only spaces. This is a feature of many medieval texts, since punctuation really was optional up until the 18th century. On the other hand, it might also mean that the Voynich script is really just that much gobbledygook, as its authenticity is still disputed.
  • In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and other works of Lewis Carroll, "ca'n't", "sha'n't" and "wo'n't" have two apostrophes. He insisted that "the popular usage is wrong".
    • He's got a point. Technically, 'shall not' -> 'shan't' should have an apostrophe to denote the missing LL as well as the missing O. Should, but doesn't.
    • On the one hand, he could justify "ca[n]n[o]t" and "sha[ll]n[o]t", but not his attempt on "will not", since the colloquialism features a contraction with a phoneme change rather than just the omission of certain sounds.
      • "Can't", however, works as "can[no]t."
  • Similarly H.P. Lovecraft would use archaic spellings and terms intentionally to give a time-spanning feel to his stories. He would also use diacritic marks such as in diäphenous or preëminent (which we still see today, though rarely, in words like naïve).
    • Diacritics like this are used to indicate that the two vowels are pronounced as separate syllables instead of a single diphthong (diaeresis). These days the only people who use them are those who believe grammar is deadly Serious Business (e.g. The New Yorker's style sheet).
    • Lovecraft's exotic vocabulary is parodied in Munchkin Cthulhu with monster enhancers such as Rugose or Mephitic. Illustrations show monsters consulting a dictionary.
  • Exclamation points within the actual narration do not make a story more interesting, Darren Shan! They serve only to irritate readers and make the story sound like it's being told by an over-excited little kid!
  • Timothy Dexter's epoch-making work, A Pickle for the Knowing Ones was originally published with no punctuation whatsoever. Some readers complained that this made the book hard to read. Dexter solved the problem by adding an extra page full of commas, full stops and semi-colons and inviting his readers to "peper and solt" the book to their own tastes.
  • Robert A. Heinlein used a two-period ellipsis .. in Time Enough for Love. I've never .. quite .. figured out why (remember this is the writer who had his character saying "An U.F.O.", and who figured that if "handkerchief" had a silent D in it, then the short form should be "handky").
  • Götz and Meyer by David Albahari uses no paragraph breaks, apparently to indicate the narrator's mental breakdown.
  • Toyed with in Vinge's novel Rainbows End, which may or may not be missing an apostrophe depending on your political views.
  • The Israeli writer Hanny Nachmias always places her periods after the quotation marks, or, to be exact, after ALL the quotation marks. Even if there already is a question or exclamation mark inside the quote. She also abuses colons and dashes left and right. The bad grammar and slang are at least partially justified because the book is written from the point of view of a dumb teenage blonde.
  • The Shelters of Stone, the fifth book in Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series, is filled with comma splices.
  • James Jones, best known for his war trilogy (From Here To Eternity, The Thin Red Line, Whistle) also wrote Some Came Running, a thinly veiled semi-autobiographical novel about his backwater hometown of Robinson, Illinois. Whereas the war books feature a terse, grammatically correct style (rather like most military communication), in Running he used intentional misspellings and punctuation errors, to underscore the rural nature of his subject.
  • In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie, when learning how to punctuate scatters punctuation all over that day's letter. The next day he apologizes.
  • John Norman, he of the Gor series of novels, is quite content to overutilize the comma; nay, even more, the semicolon; rather than using periods to separate his thoughts he will use the semicolon; it is annoying; you start to count the number of semicolons in a paragraph; often his page long paragraphs will be only one or two sentences long; he will use semicolons; this is especially true of his descriptive paragraphs.
  • From a literary criticism by John Fletcher of The Stranger:
    "and at best a legitimate action, on Meursault's part, in self-defence, rather than, as the prosecution allege at Meursault's trial, murder in the first degree."
  • In John Green's Paper Towns, a character capitalizes random letters in a shopping list because "the rules of capitalization are so unfair to the words in the middle". It becomes a plot point later as the protagonist identifies her as the writer of an anonymous post because of the random capitalization.
  • Used intentionally in The Dog Stars. Higs's narration uses idiosyncratic punctuation, often putting periods mid-sentence to give the words a halting, staccato rhythm. Other times it uses comma splicing or forgoes punctuation completely to make sentences run together. Higs is cracking up from loneliness After the End, so the style emphasizes his mental state.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: Come along Pond. It makes it sound like a title or cryptic code.
  • Stargate SG-1 In-Universe example: Jack O'Neill interrupts his own torture to point out a bad guy's grammatical error: "You ended that sentence with a preposition! Bastard!"
    • As pointed out in the earlier section, this is one of the zombie rules of grammar. It's dead, but it just refuses to lie down. It's hardly out of character for O'Neill to do exactly this sort of thing; he may even have known it was a "zombie" rule, but who cares as long as you get the other guy confused or angry?
  • William Shatner provides a verbal version of this trope in Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • The title character's father in Moone Boy is a sign-maker. In one episode, he argues briefly with a customer who insists on a sign for "BED'S" (though acknowledging that he does have a spare apostrophe lying around).

    Music 
  • Done intentionally by Mötley Crüe. Because umlauts/diaereses are the möst metäl type of pünctüätiön.
    • Parodied in the name of fictional band, Spın̈al Tap, where the diaeresis appears over the n; a construct appearing in only a handful of very obscure languages. Note also the dotless ı, normally found only in Turkish.
  • Soraya, a Spanish pop singer, released an (extremely successful in Spain) album called Ochenta's (an album of Eighties covers. Convenient since Ochentas means Eighties). The greengrocer's apostrophe is especially worrisome when you realise that standard Spanish has no apostrophes. (In "Spanglish," then, the title implies that the album contains only songs from the year 1980 — which, ironically, many pop-culture historians tend to lump in with The Seventies.)
    • Hear'Say, a thankfully short-lived British manufactured pop group, used the apostrophe decoratively by carelessly shoving it into the middle of an existing word (that had no pronunciation ambiguities to clarify) to form their band's name. Don't people go to Hell for such flagrant punctuation abuse?
  • The back covers of REM's Fables of the Reconstruction and The Stone Roses' Turns Into Stone had no apostrophes. In the former case the songs were actually called "Feeling Gravitys Pull" and all that, but the latter's fans were confused by tracks like "Fool's Gold" or "Something's Burning" lacking apostrophes.
    • See? Is it "Fool's Gold" or "Fools' Gold"? Either of which could have multiple, different meanings.
    • There's also REM's Lifes Rich Pageant.
  • The latest interview from Steve Perry, formerly of Journey. Dear GODS, cruelty to the common ellipse, lack of any punctuation, and the hideous color scheme make this one un-readable interview.
  • Dolly Parton has a song called "Everything's Beautiful (in It's Own Way)".
  • And the Manic Street Preachers have "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart". Sic.
  • Taylor Swift has a habit of hiding Secret messages within the Pages of her liner notEs. every set of song lyrics lAcKs capitalizatioN save for a set of letters that spell out a phrase relating to the sOng somehoW.
  • The French musical group NeBeLNeST.
  • "Walkin' Away" by Diamond Rio has the obvious error in the line "These occasional moments of weakness only makes our love more strong."

    New Media 
  • When simple apostrophes or quote marks are replaced by an unreadable character sequence, due to encoding problems. There are a million different versions of this, and it's particularly bad on wikis due to the large number of different pieces of software (everyone's browser).
    • To wit, an earlier version of this very entry said "probably because of a ?½¶~feature?½¶~ of the other troper?¤©æ#8482;s browser.", and it was later mangled twice (once to replace all the symbols with �, the next to replace each of those with the sequence �).
    • The Hacker Jargon File, for another example, has a default encoding which causes punctuation signs and non-breaking spaces to become a � sign (for those of you who can't see it, that's the Unicode "REPLACEMENT CHARACTER" and looks like a question mark inside a black diamond).
  • One of the crackpots who is responsible for dozens of hoaxes when it comes to LOST spoilers is named ThEmIsFiTiShErE. What's worse is that, in his posts, he puts certain, random, often unimportant words in all-caps, making the reader just want to stab him in the face after a while. He also can't spell for crap.
    "It has BEEN a while SINCE my last post AS ABC cut all POWER to my house to STOP me losigating!! BUT now I have PURCHASED 27 Hamsters THAT all run around in a GIANT ball to POWSER my COmputer!!"
  • Some older Cracked articles are missing the "s" after possessive apostrophes. This is due to a technical glitch rather than poor writing, but it still makes some of the site' articles hard to read.
  • John Watson's blog and Sherlock's website receive comments by a capitalisation rebel:
    theimprobableone: capital letters are just one of society's conventions that I choose to ignore. you've just been programmed to be one of society. you're a sheep.
  • Once on the GameFAQs television message board, someone made a topic asking "are there only fools and horses on american tv?". There was a lot of confusion and bafflement that someone would believe this before it was finally pointed out that Only Fools And Horses is the name of a television show.
  • Some people on the internet tend to remove comments to their work with horrible grammar thus making the web a better place.

    Print Media 
  • The Women's Weekly magazines at checkout lines are apparently compelled by law to end every internal headline, front-page teaser, caption, and generally any sentence or clause outside of an article with either a question mark or an exclamation point. Feeling fat? Lose 200 pounds with this Ancient Chinese secret! While you stuff your obese offspring with these hideously ugly confections of pure sugar! Made from ingredients found in your local discount rack! Depressed? Buy a new purse! Like the one worn by this famous actress! Emphasis of everything actually equals emphasis of nothing? That's not what Oprah says!
  • The children's book publisher Troll does the same thing in the newsletter that says what new books it's publishing. This is typically coupled with a rather hammy style of blurb that's apparently intended to make the reader think all their books are pulse-pounders, but more often comes off as Narm.

    Radio 
  • Radio Active featured various parodies of radio dramas in which the actors completely misread lines because of punctuation errors in the scripts. Perhaps one of the most memorable examples occurred in a detective drama:
    So what? Do we have to go on? (Beat) So, what do we have to go on?

    Theatre 
  • For a while at least, George Bernard Shaw abandoned the use of apostrophes in most contractions — even writing "he'll" without the apostrophe — though he dropped that practice later:
    I have written aint, dont, havnt, shant, shouldnt, and wont for twenty years with perfect impunity, using the apostrophe only where its omission would suggest another word: for example, hell for he'll. There is not the faintest reason for persisting in the ugly and silly trick of peppering pages with these uncouth bacilli.
    — Letter to The Author, April 1902
  • The Dutch comedian Herman Finkers plays with this in his linguistic fairytale Het Spreukjesbos
    Hansel said "Gretel, shall I wear my pretty dress today?"
    (beat)
    "Hansel," said Gretel, "shall I wear my pretty dress today?"
    • Acutally, Herman Finkers is a master of wordplay. The full joke requires some explanation. In the Netherlands, Hansel and Gretel are called Hans en Grietje. After the bit described above Hans responds with: Don't be so weird, Grietje Titulaer. Now, this might not be weird, but around the time this show ran, there was a well-known Dutch public figure going by the name Chriet Titulaer. Chriet is a male name. To top it off: Chriet and Griet are pronounched exactly the same. He even mentions that Hans and Grietje are the Titulaer brothers. And this is just the very start of the "Spreukjesbos" segment.

    Video Games 
  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. While punctuation errors are the least of its problems, whoever was in charge of the game's font apparently considered certain punctuation marks such as apostrophes far too exotic, and therefore they were replaced with a square symbol.
    • Sounds like the inappropriate use of a title font, many of which are lacking non-alphanumeric symbols except those someone bothered to create.
  • There are not one, but two greengrocers' apostrophes in the dialogue near the end of the otherwise well-written Ōkami.
  • The Playstation game Xenogears was quite "fond" of using "quotes" placed around various "words."
  • The subtitles of Limbo of the Lost are wrong. All of them.
  • Shodan from System Shock speaks in alternating caps.
  • The subtitles during the final cinematic of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty suffer from a severe lack of commas.
  • The ZX Spectrum game Merlock the Mede: The Ashes of Alucard is inclined to use comma splices, or omit punctuation altogether.
    You are in the cellar of the rectory it is dark and you feel a bit cold you can here movement but cannot see anything moving.
    • While probably just carelessness, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that there literally wasn't room in the memory to fit commas. This is the ZX Spectrum we're talking about here, a machine with just forty-eight kilobytes of RAM; as soon as you're writing anything more complicated than a Hello World program you need to start saving space somewhere.
  • Guitar Hero: Smash Hits would be guilty of using quotation marks for emphasis, if they had actually used quotation marks rather than the offending apostrophes.
  • One of the games on Codemasters' Quattro Sports is called Baseball Pro's.
  • In the Battletoads games, the combat amphibians of the title are called "'Toads" for short, since just calling them "toads" wouldn't be proper enough.
  • The subtitling for the Clairconctlar in the game Star Control 3 uses a period between just about every word to represent their slow speech with long time between words.
  • Shantae makes the "its/it's" blunder a few times. It wouldn't be too noticeable or jarring if it didn't crop up in the message that appears every time you find a baby Warp Squid.

    Web Animation 
  • Zero Punctuation is called that because the creator speaks very fast and without pauses, in the manner of someone reading a document without any punctuation. Mercifully, his articles are not written this way.
  • Homestar Runner: "Oh, if you wanna be possessive, it's just I-T-S, but if it's supposed to be a contraction, then it's I-T-apostrophe-S. Scalawag."

    Web Comics 
  • Bob the Angry Flower rants against misuse of apostrophes in this comic.
  • Penny Arcade sometimes has an animated period reading posts from gaming forums and chiding the writers for their lack of capitalization and other grammatical errors.
  • Chopping Block: Butch does not appreciate incorrect punctuation.
  • Freefall uses extra punctuation in the middle of sentences to indicate pauses in the speech of a robot running at a lower clock speed than usual.
  • Most of the speaking cast in Homestuck commit minor grammatical sins when typing to each other via IM. The only one of the four main characters who uses completely standard grammar is Rose, though her text has... other issues. The other three kids neglect capitalization (and, in Dave's case, punctuation) and the trolls each have their own typing quirks, from Gamzee's aLtErNaTiNg cApS to Terezi's C4PSLOCK3D 413 133T.
  • Rock Paper Cynic has one of the most awesome examples ever.

    Web Original 
  • "Cruelty to the Uncommon Comma" is a charge in the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, especially the Department of Technical Errors (which the Uncommon Comma leads).

  • MrDrake's Darwins Soldiers stories can sound like this. An example (one sentence!):
    Marcus: They call it Topri, strange name, I know, however, it’s not like they actually seem to care for that, it is, after all, off the highway, you know, out of the way, away from civilization, after all, looking into the town’s history, they don’t tend to get too many visitors to the town, then again, they don’t have much, a small little national park of some sort, a town hall, movie theatre, believe it or not, gas station, along with the local bar, other than that, just houses doted around the town as you can see here."
  • This is responsible for many, many Cake Wrecks, be it eye-searingly awful misspellings or horrible punctuation.

    Real Life 
  • The minefield of grammatical rules, exceptions and linguistic gray areas is the main reason why most major publications adopt or create an official style guide for their writers.
    • This also applies to questions of usage where there are valid arguments either way. For instance, there's a Broken Base among grammarians as to whether you should use a serial comma ("A, B, and C") or not ("A, B and C"). The most expedient answer is just to go with your publisher's style guide.
  • This is far, far, far too common in Dutch, where the apostrophe denotes a short grapheme corresponding to a long vowel in plurals, mostly in originally foreign words. (Example: "Auto" means "car". "Auto's" means "cars", because "Autos" would be pronounced wrong, and "Autoos" goes against all grammar rules.) The apostrophe stands for a sound that's included in speech, but left out in written language. It... tends to go wrong.
    • The same thing has been done to substitute for graves, acutes, and macrons. Once again, this convention tends to go wrong. Especially when it's impossible to tell if a word is supposed to be possessive, contracted, or have an accent on a vowel....
    • Over-punctuation can occur in Dutch as well: very few people are aware that the apostrophe between a word and an S, like in English, can be omitted entirely in Dutch. In fact, not even the Microsoft Word grammar control knows about it, which is probably one of the reasons it's so little known: the Dutch tend to rely on the Word grammar and spelling control completely because of how difficult the Dutch language is.
    • Use of the apostrophe after the vowel in place of an acute or grave accent is widespread in Italian, even on signs in Italy itself. Even worse is that the word processors used to write such mistakes will often auto-correct the apostrophe to an accent, but will leave it hanging over empty space instead of moving it above the vowel.
  • This can also happen when people write English according to the grammatical rules of their native language. German-speakers writing English tend to insert commas in places, that do not require a comma in English but would require a comma in German.
    • Germanophones writing in English also often have Trouble not putting Capitalization on every Noun, like they are used to in their Birth Language. Anglophones tend to overcapitalize when writing in French, too (but then, the full capitalization rules are tricky even for French natives).
    • Likewise, the punctuation rules for the three languages are different. A colon, question mark or semi-colon is preceded by a space "example : this", German and French use commas less frequently than English. Decimals are marked with a comma, which is used in English as a separator "1,234" is just less than one and a quarter in French and just less than a thousand and a quarter in English. Dialogue in French texts is marked with «», then a dash for any speech running on. German uses „“ or »« (yes, the inverse of the French) and is more prone to using free indirect speech than English. Trilinguals despair.
      • Quebecois Francophones follow English rules for commas and decimals within numbers. Conversely, South African Anglophones use the German/French/Dutch ones.
    • Spanish (or at least the Mexican dialect thereof) uses dashes to indicate the beginning and end of dialogue (-like this -for example).
      • International Spanish rules set the use of a long dash (—) for starting a dialogue, with additional long dashes to add an explanation:
      • —It would be like this —said this troper—, exactly like this.
  • The Apple website, much like the previous entry on this very page, has a tendency to mistake the word too (an adverb) as something that constantly calls for a comma preceding it. While it is possible to precede a 'too' with a comma, it is the editorial phrase of which they form a part that calls for the comma, not the word too... ever.
    • eg. "Tias, too drunk to walk, decided to fly home." Here the too forms part of a tangent in the sentence, and hence the comma is appropriate.
    • eg. "Tias, contrary to popular belief, can fly, too." Here the too is an integral part of the grammar of the sentence: it tells the reader something about how the ability to fly, and hence it should not be separated from the verb by its own comma.
  • WEATHER BULLETINS FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN THE UNITED STATES OFTEN USE ELLIPSES IN PLACE OF ALMOST ALL PUNCTUATION... IN ADDITION TO TYPING EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPS AS IF THEY WERE STILL SENDING OUT TELEGRAMS LIKE FIFTY YEARS AGO...
    • The WeatherBug Site Tries To Add Some Sanity By Changing The Entire Message To Title-Case... But Keeps The Ellipses... And Humorously... Always Renders The Word "IN" IN All Caps... Assuming It To Be Short For "Indiana".
  • When the German subjects of Gertrude, wife of Kind Andrew of Hungary took control of the kingdom in the king's absence, a group of conspirators decided to take down the queen, and asked the clergy for support. The archbishop, not wanting to choose sides, answered with a letter but deliberately left out all the commas, leaving room for two possible but entirely contradicting interpretations:
    You should not be afraid to murder the queen. It will be a good thing. If everybody agrees to it, I do not object.
    You should not murder the queen. To be afraid will be a good thing. If everybody agrees to it, I do not: I object.
    • Leaving the error unfixed to point it out: as mentioned earlier, sometimes people forget to close their parentheticals. Even worse, sometimes people replace their parentheses with commas and then forget to close them. That happened; there should be a comma after "Kind Andrew of Hungary" up there.
    • The same joke has been made with the city of Ulm's catchphrase: "Ulm hat was alle suchen!" The is supposed to be one comma in the sentence, but where? "Ulm hat, was alle suchen!" means 'Ulm has something for everyone' and "Ulm hat was, alle suchen!" means 'Ulm has something, everyone's looking [for it].'
  • One of the most common punctuation errors in Polish texts is putting an apostrophe, or multiple apostrophes, in every conjugated foreign name. Simplifying things a bit, one should do so only when the name ends with 'y' or a muted vowel. Omitting apostrophes is actually less haphazard (that's how names were written in the early 20th century) than spamming them everywhere.

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