Last week, I went out to eat with my family to an Italian restaurant in Phoenix. I noticed that on the front of the menu was the name of the restaurant and under that was written The Best "Pasta" in the Valley. I immediately thought to myself, why are there quotation marks around the word “pasta?” I love pasta and have no issues eating it but as someone who had never dined at the establishment it definitely got me thinking about the pasta and not in a good way.
Poor punctuation can lead to unclear communications. If your writing is confusing, it will not inspire confidence in your product (in this case the pasta) and in this case may even cost you business (I opted for the chicken parmesan). So, understanding the rules of punctuation and knowing how to use the various marks can save you from confusing your readers.
Here are a few of the most annoying punctuation errors that you and your business don’t want to catch yourself in (and a few real life punctuation errors if you want a good laugh):
Improper use of en dashes or em dashes
En dashes are used to indicate a period of time where em dashes are used to create sentence complexity and are longer than an en dash.
Common mistake: I worked there from 2013 to 2014. It should read 2013 – 2014 not 2013-2014.
Overusing exclamation marks
We see businesses do this all the time. Don’t overemphasize what you are trying to say. A general rule of thumb is to only use one exclamation mark per document. If you use more it can look like you’re yelling (or just being annoying).
Common mistake: Wet floor!!!!!! Do not walk!!!!!!
Putting apostrophes on last names when they aren’t needed
Have you ever received a card or invitation and seen this? Apostrophes are for contractions and for possession.
Common mistake: Happy Holidays from the Wilson's. The card should read, Happy Holidays from the Wilsons.
Have you ever seen a business misuse punctuation? Did it change your perception about the business?