Commas count, y'all.

By Melissa Locker
March 31, 2019
Fabio Pagani / EyeEm/Getty Images

Reading and writing were some of the first things most of us were taught in school. After learning the basics of the ABCs, there was figuring out how to sculpt those letters into sentences, and then unraveling the complexities of proper punctuation. There were periods, commas, and question marks, and then later semicolons, em dashes, en dashes, parentheses, serial commas, and single and double quotation marks. Learning where and when to use those little marks was a challenge, but once mastered they could be put to good use with properly punctuated school papers, thank you notes, and Facebook posts.

While it can be hard to keep them all straight (what is the difference between a hyphen and a dash? And when do you use a bracket versus a parentheses?), life without punctuation is even more confusing. Take for instance, one of the silliest jokes trotted out to prove the importance of punctuation, the difference between "Let's eat, grandma!" and "Let's eat grandma!" The first invokes eating dinner with your beloved nana, while the second suggests eating your beloved granny for dinner. The difference all comes down to a very important comma and, as the joke goes, in this instance, punctuation saves lives.

WATCH: How To Write a Thank You Note

For further proof, did you hear the one about the panda? As more evidence that punctuation matters, the black-and-white bear either eats shoots and leaves of the grass variety, or the panda figures out how to hold a Remington and then eats, shoots, and leaves. Turns out a misplaced comma can really alter the eating habits of pandas.

Similarly, think of all your church friends who want to talk about their hobbies. While saying, "I love baking, my family, and my friends" is a nice sentiment, take away the commas and the sentence becomes a one line horror show: "I love baking my family and friends."

If you do make a punctuation error that leads to a confusing situation, be careful when you apologize. Don't send an apology note saying, "I'm sorry I love you." That would lead to more issues. Instead write, "I'm sorry; I love you." One little semi-colon can go a long way to preserving a relationship and making a proper apology.

In short, while remembering the rules of punctuation can feel tedious on occasion, those little marks your teacher taught you can prevent a lot of confusion.