My dad sent this to me in an email the other day:
An English professor wrote the words: "A woman without her man is nothing" on the chalkboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly.
All of the males in the class wrote: "A woman, without her man, is nothing."
Are you ready for this...........?
All the females in the class wrote: "A woman: without her, man is nothing."
First of all, I don't believe that all of the male students punctuated the sentence one way and all of the females punctuated it another. But I get the point: punctuation isn’t just used to let us know when a sentence is over or to separate items in a series; it can also be used to perpetuate the battle between the sexes.
Well, women’s income may only be 79.9% of men’s and the NBA may be infinitely more popular than the WNBA, but, sorry guys, the women have won the punctuation challenge.
For the record, let me just say that, as a woman, I find no gratification in the females winning. I have come to peace with the opposite sex. I have put down my sword, so to speak. I believe that men and women are equal and equally need one another. However, as a grammar lesson, let's break down why the females won.
The females punctuated their sentence perfectly to connote that a man is nothing without a woman. But, the males’ sentence didn’t quite manage to suggest the opposite.
If the males would have just left the sentence as it was and not added the commas, they would have tied with the females by successfully connoting that women are nothing without men.
The commas the males added around without her man suggest that without her man is extra information, and thus, can be taken out without altering the meaning of the sentence- but it can’t.
To illustrate my point, let’s look at a sentence in which extra information is correctly set off with commas:
Jane, without her man, managed to open the jar of spaghetti sauce.
If we take out without her man, this is our sentence:
Jane managed to open the jar of spaghetti sauce.
The fact that she opened it without a man present is just added detail. The important thing is that she got the stupid jar open.
Now, let’s go back to the males’ sentence:
A woman, without her man, is nothing.
Now, let’s remove without her man:
A woman is nothing.
Oh really? Someone get me my sword.