Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

Aug 28 2012   10:37AM GMT

Punctuation matters: What does this sentence mean?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

What does this sentence mean?
Happy birthday to Besse Cooper, the world’s oldest person who turned 116 today.

a. It’s a birthday greeting for Besse Cooper. She is the oldest person in the world and she turned 116 today.
b. It’s a birthday greeting for Besse Cooper. She is the oldest person in the world and she is the eldest of some unspecified number of people who all turned 116 today.


Answer: b.

Explanation:
Besse Cooper actually turned 116 yesterday and the greeting went out on Twitter. You need to add a comma after “person” to indicate that “who turned 116 today” modifies Besse Cooper. The comma is what indicates a parenthetical phrase, so that the sentence means “Besse Cooper turned 116 today. She is the world’s oldest person.”

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

 Comment on this Post

 
There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when other members comment.

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to:

Share this item with your network: