The importance of punctuation

An English teacher wrote on the blackboard “Woman without her man would be a savage” and instructed his students to add the proper punctuation.

All the males punctuated it thusly: “Woman, without her man, would be a savage.”

All the females punctuated it “Woman: without her, man would be a savage.”


Could have gone “Woman without, her man would be a savage.”

Maybe in French such a construction is possible, but not English. It makes no sense.

If you say so.
But I’m pretty sure I saw such a construction a good couple of times over the years/novels.
(Novels that I read in English ; not in French.)

See what happens when you put that sentence in their grammar checker.

See this article on The Most Comma Mistakes.

Let’s eat Grandma.
Let’s eat, Grandma.
Commas save lives.


Or spares indigestion.

You may have seen it. My fellow English speakers commit all sorts of crimes against the language. But no, it’s not correct.

How about like this?

“Woman without? her man would be a savage.”

“Woman without?” isn’t a sentence (no verb), or even a terribly coherent fragment. “Without” what?

If there’s additional context, you might be able to make it work, but not as it stands.

1 Like

I agree: if you take “without” only to mean “does not have possession of”, then the sentence “Woman without?” doesn’t make much sense. But “without” can also mean “outside” or “about” in British English, particularly in Scotland.

So “Woman without?” could be a perfectly meaningful and grammatical sentence on its own, without any additional words, depending on other context. No-one would bat an eyelid at a sentence such as “Taxman outside? Hide!” and “Woman without?” is identical in structure.

BTW, sentences do not need verbs to be valid grammatically – otherwise “You too, Brutus?”, “Oh, no!”, or “Without what?” would not be sentences, and they clearly are.

1 Like

By that I understand that you consider that a question mark systematically ends a sentence.
I’m surprised that you then didn’t mention the “error” by which what follows starts with a lowercase letter.
You would otherwise had spotted the inversion.
“Without a woman”.
Wherever I read something formulated like that (say, “X without, the situation is hopeless”), it could have been written “Without a X, the situation is hopeless.”
“Without the cavalry, the situation is hopeless.” → “Cavalry without? we don’t stand a chance.”

How’s “This aside?” for a complete sentence? If I say: “This aside? we have to go…” ??
There is no way “This aside? We have to go” and “This aside? we have to go” could remotely be interpreted the same.

But, you know what? this here should be a correct sentence. ( ← As one sentence. One single sentence.) Some will disagree; will say: “No, no, no! This is, these are, two separate sentences! It has to be! They have to be!” – I expect. (The grammar says – or used to say – something like: If one answers his/her own question, the question not being intended as a request for an answer, then the sentence continues, without a capital letter.)
And then in this context, the question mark is nothing more than a comma, with tonal attributes. The comma may still be used. “This aside, we have to go.” “Woman without, her man would be a savage.”
(It is the exact same than with the question mark, but expressivity down a notch.)

→ This here (my post, not necessarily the thread itself) is the same topic, in the end, than the one earlier about the disappearance of the semi-colon, its variants, and subtilties of written language.
People made new grammar rules, “Lets make it square and simple.” …then wonder where the lyrical side of written language went ; – quite depressing, actually.

I spotted it, but discarded it. Word order matters. “Without a woman?” is fine as a fragment. “Woman without?” is not. (In the US, with all due respect to our friends across the pond.)

So, “Friends with, he entered the club.” would have to be wrong too?

Courage within, she hunted the dragon.

It certainly made me cringe, and I’m in the U.S. like Katherine is.

Of course, U.S. grammar rules and editors also like hounding on items like split infinitives, dangling prepositions, and other grammatical “errors” that are quite common in written and spoken US English.

1 Like

Yes, I would say both of those are wrong.

Unless you have a “Yoda” type character with strange speech patterns. :innocent:


Words move around, you shall not.

1 Like

Although, I seem to recall hearing that Yoda’s speech patterns were similar to the “Pennsylvania Dutch” or Palatine German speech patterns commonly encountered in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky.