That's one way to think about them. You wouldn't be safe driving without them. How would you know when to stop? When to give way to the other driver? Just try driving in a country without Road Signs and you know what I mean. It's dangerous. With punctuation, it can be almost the same. The placement of a comma or colon can entirely change the meaning. Don't believe me? Listen to this story.the tit
One writer brought this to everyone's attention about a decade ago---Lynn Tauss who wrote the book with the provocative title: "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation." She challenged the reader with this title. What do you think it means? The first three words sound pretty violent. Yes, it sounds like he or she eats something, shoots something or someone, and then leaves. But did he or she eat, shoot and leave?
Or....did the writer of the title mean something else? Yes, they did, according to Tauss. Take out the comma after "Eats" and the title could read "Eats shoots and leaves." That way, the title suggests that a panda (bear) benevolently "eats (bamboo? shoots and leaves." One comma makes all the difference. So the next time you are struggling over whether or not to put in a common and want to ask, "What difference does it make?" just remember, it may make a very big difference. It did in the Tauss title. So use the comma "road sign" wisely and carefully to guide your reader to the meaning you intend.
Good writing skills are a cornerstone of success in the academic world, and they are also a major plus in later life.