Punctuation matters – and not solely to teachers and editors. Punctuation marks are the signposts to help the reader navigate the text. The reader makes meaning, knowing when to pause, stop, and get excited. The reader can determine  who owns what and which words are direct quotations.

But when punctuation is misused, the reader may becomes distracted by the signposts and lose the real meaning. What is one to make of this observation: “Last week John went to see his parents, Atom Egoyan and Jann Arden.”

Is John really the son of these artists? An additional comma would clear up the problem and show that John had visited three people last week.

Beyond creating confusion and providing chuckles, though, punctuation errors can prove costly. Businesses can lose millions of dollars if a comma is not placed just right. Take a look at the Blog Herald to see just how expensive a misplaced comma can be.