Barbara Bush died a few days ago, and The Onion had this to say about it:
Barbara Bush Passes Away Surrounded By Loved Ones, Jeb
This got me thinking a bit, how can we change the meaning of this sentence just by making some very minor edits to it? As it stands right no, the comma at the end of the headline make two different groups, Barbara Bush’s loved ones and Jeb. These groups are separate, and the headline would be the same if the comma was replaced with an ampersand(&). What happens if we change the comma to a colon though?
Barbara Bush Passes Away Surrounded By Loved Ones: Jeb
As a headline in this case, this is saying that Jeb stated Barbara passed away. There’s no relationship between Jeb and her loved ones. Now what would happen if we add more people to the end?
Barbara Bush Passes Away Surrounded By Loved Ones: Jeb, George
By having more than one person here, we are now defining who the loved ones are of Barbara. At least that’s what first comes to mind for me.
Anyway, I just thought that this was interesting. And quite possibly confusing to people who are just learning English, as the punctuation makes a big difference in this case.
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