Or would “Punctuate, People!” be a better way to write it?
It does make a difference.
Someone waxing philosophical might note: “That that is is that that is not is not.” It doesn’t make much sense until the punctuation is added. “That that is, is. That that is not, is not.”
Some examples of badly-punctuated statements are common knowledge. “Let’s eat Grandma.” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandma.” Or “Our next project is cut and paste kids.” vs. “Our next project is cut and paste, kids.”
Lynne Truss produced a book illustrated with cuddly pandas entitled Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Harper Collins, 2009) that turns out to be about the importance of commas, not about the after-feeding activities of murderous pandas.
A surprising number of misstatements surround food, perhaps because many references are presented not as a narration, but as truncated menus and signs.
Outdoor seating on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant: “Tables are for eating customers only.” How many customers do they lose to being eaten?
At the entrance to a library: “No smoking food or beverages permitted.” Smoking food takes a while and produces lots of smoke. It probably would damage the books. Not sure about smoking beverages.
And the ingredients in a vegetarian salad: Lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, mushrooms, goats, cheese.” The addition of “goats” would remove it from the vegetarian category.
In the October 2010 issue of Tails magazine: "Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog."
Probably not the publicity she was seeking.
There’s a difference between a picture of a man eating chicken, and a man-eating chicken. One is mundane; the other is scary.
And speculative fiction authors may have to be concerned that “Most of the time travelers worry about their luggage,” while in the present day, “Most of the time, travelers worry about their luggage.”
“I’m sorry I love you.” has an entirely different message than an apology of “I’m sorry. I love you.”
Would you rather get twenty five-dollar bills for a total of one hundred dollars, or twenty-five dollar bills for twenty-five dollars?
A newly-ordained minister might piously express gratitude by saying, “I would not be here without those who started me on this path and supported my efforts. Thank you to my parents, Mrs. Wilson and God.” Although if Mrs. Wilson and God are the parents, perhaps the career selection was a family heritage. Or perhaps should it have read, “Thank you to my parents, Mrs. Wilson, and God.”
Can you think of a time when punctuation changed the meaning of a passage?