Let’s start the year with some punctuation humor…

January 1, 2009

The delightful Sarah P (a graphics designer I’ve worked with), sent me this little piece on the importance of punctuation and capitalization. There’s a world of difference in meaning between these two sentences—and that meaning comes from punctuation and capitalization:

  • ‘I helped my friend jack off his horse.’
  • ‘I helped my friend, Jack, off his horse.’

I think Lynne Truss (of Eats, Shoots and Leaves fame) would like this one! ;-)


  1. Unless the friend is a horse assassin, there is still a problem with the second example. You don’t help someone “off a horse”, you help them “off of a horse”.

  2. There are plenty of grammar mavens who would disagree, Mignon “Grammar Girl” Fogarty for one:

    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/when-to-use-of.aspx (‘In most similar phrases the “of” is considered unnecessary, and you can leave it out. You jump off the pier, not off OF the pier, for example’)

    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ending-prepositions.aspx (‘The problem with unnecessary prepositions doesn’t just happen at the end of sentences. People often throw extraneous prepositions into the middle of sentences, and they really shouldn’t. Instead of saying Squiggly jumped off of the dock, it’s better to say Squiggly jumped off the dock. You see? You don’t need to say off of the dock; off the dock says the same thing without the preposition.)’

    http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/probPrep.asp (‘Correct: Take your shoes off the bed. Incorrect: Take your shoes off of the bed.’)

    A quick search on Google for [grammar “off of”] (without the square brackets) results in almost 1 million hits, most of which state that the “of” in “off of” is unnecessary and that “off” by itself works just as well.

    In the second example, the person (Jack) is dismounting the horse (getting off it), not shooting it!

    If nothing else, your comment made me look at it a couple of times and I can see how even the second option could be confusing if you regularly use colloquial “off” to refer to killing something.

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