Punctuation saves lives…
…and prevents law suits. Saw a sign today. Not a mystical sign. A public information sign, and on the news otherwise I’d have to have left the house. It read “KEEP OUT DANGEROUS CLIFFS”. So, I thought, I can go in there but anyone named Cliff with anger management issues can’t. Or perhaps it means Cliff Richard, it being almost Christmas and a cheery single no doubt approaching. I don’t think it does mean him though as it’s nowhere near a tennis court. I can’t imagine it means actual cliffs because, well, they aren’t likely to be wandering by to be told keep out.
No, the instruction is definitely for the public warning them to keep dangerous cliffs out.
As a friend pointed out it’s along the lines of “SLOW CHILDREN PLAYING”. How much more would it cost and how much more sense would it make if they’d only put a simple colon or even a dash to delineate instruction and reason?
I wonder if I could fall off a large rocky structure and claim compensation because my name isn’t Cliff and even if it were I posed no threat and so didn’t think the warning applied to me?
If you want your meaning to be clear, punctuate it properly. There are stupid people out there who’ll misunderstand if you don’t. And facetious, pedantic, OCD ones like me who will deliberately misunderstand just to make a point.