"Sticklers unite!" - Lynne Truss
When it comes to punctuation, Lynne Truss is a stickler. She gasps in horror and despair at a redundant apostrophe. Her concern for the growing apathy toward the standards of punctuation prompted her to write the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The book, originally published and successful in her native England, has shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list in its North American edition.
Writes Truss, "The reason to stand up for punctuation is that without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning. Punctuation herds words together, keeps others apart. Punctuation directs you how to read, in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play."
What does punctuation have to do with leadership? If leaders are to communicate effectively, they must Master Both Listening and Speaking. When they speak through the written word, in memos, e-mails, and text messages, they must punctuate their writing correctly.
Consider this example from the book. Suppose you are instructing an employee to use accurate timekeeping when measuring a process. You write, "Don't guess, use a timer or watch." You are actually conveying the opposite of your intended meaning, appearing to say, "Don't guess, don't use a timer, and don't use a watch." Therefore, the sentence requires a semi-colon or period after "guess," rather than a comma.
Maybe most readers will miss or ignore your careless punctuation. But the sticklers will notice! They will find your sloppiness distracting. Furthermore, they will stop believing you when you state, "We value quality in everything we do."
Eats, Shoots & Leaves is an amusing, yet informative book. I could tell you what the title means, but that's part of the fun. I'll warn you: there are differences between British and American punctuation standards (we use periods to end sentences; they use "full stops") and Truss is from England. However, she points out the contrasts without altering the magic of the book.
Master Both Listening and Speaking, and master punctuation, too. Bookmark this post on del.icio.us