The importance of punctuation

Every time I hear the song Don’t Speak by No Doubt I think of the importance of punctuation. Specifically, take this line:

Don’t tell me cause it hurts

The meaning is actually ambiguous in my mind without some punctuation.

Consider it a rebuttal to some previous comment:

Don’t tell me “cause it hurts”

Or what about if it was actually an order:

Don’t; tell me: “cause it hurts”

Or maybe it is being spoken by someone who is a bit masochistic:

Don’t. Tell me cause it hurts

And yes, these are the things I think about when I’m at the gym and this song comes on :)

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

9 thoughts on “The importance of punctuation”

  1. I have a feeling that’s the expected reading of it based on the rest of the lyrics. I always seem to hear it ‘Don’t tell me “cause it hurts”‘ and picture some irate woman yelling at her man about some small pain when she’s just recently delivered a baby. :)


    1. Re: I almost feel like I should give you a THANKS award for this posting!

      [laugh] Thanks, but I’ve been maxed out since June! The real question is if my posting will get mentioned in your blog ;)


  2. Panda opens fire while dining, then departs.

    Assuming you haven’t already read it, you should definitely put _Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation_ by Lynne Truss on your holiday wish list. :) Based on this post alone, I am sure you would adore it. There’s a bit at the beginning where it shows how to transform the same example text from a love letter to a hate letter with just punctuation changes that’s worth the price of admission alone.


    1. Re: Panda opens fire while dining, then departs.

      At your recommendation (as well as others to the same book) I rushed out to the library today and picked it up.

      Should I be concerned if I’ve found a stray space and I’m not event out of the Preface yet? Maybe I’ll try to pass it off as a horrible misshapen kerning issue and blame it on the publisher’s layout engine…


      1. Re: Panda opens fire while dining, then departs.

        I think you’re on the right track there — you can’t really blame the author for the kerning of the typesetting…at least not in this book. I’m sure there’s a snarky book about that somewhere too. :)


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