As a sales presentation skills trainer I am always impressed with my clients who take the comma seriously. Enjoy our latest contribution by Grammer Granny and editor Eleanor Dugan.
An Empty Restaurant?
What is the difference between the two pairs of sentences below? Which would you want to describe your new client, a large restaurant chain?
Customers, who were barefoot, were not welcome in the chain’s restaurants.
Customers who were barefoot were not welcome in the chain’s restaurants.
Head chefs, wearing the tallest toques, were given shares in the chain.
Head chefs wearing the tallest toques were given shares in the chain.
The answer is those tiny commas that completely change meaning. You don’t need them when you talk. Your tone indicates their presence or absence. But, oh, what a difference they make when you present your material in written form—web site and magazine articles, press releases, PR materials, letters, and e-mails.
(Patricia Fripp would add sales presentation materials as well)
The fancy name for using or not using commas around the extra information (“clauses”) in these sentences is “restrictive” and “nonrestrictive.” If commas set the extra information apart from the main idea, it is just extra information:
Nonrestrictive: Customers, who were barefoot, were not welcome in the restaurant. (No customers were welcome. BAD.)
Nonrestrictive: Head chefs, wearing the tallest toques, were given shares in the chain. (You can tell the head chefs from other kitchen workers because they wear the highest hats. If they own shares, they are more likely to be committed to their work and the restaurant chain. GOOD.)
But without any commas, this “extra” information becomes essential to what is being said:
Restrictive: Customers who were barefoot were not welcome in the restaurant. (The restaurant welcomed customers with shoes. GOOD.)
Restrictive: Head chefs wearing the tallest toques were given shares in the chain. (Only the head chefs with the tallest hats were given shares. The low-hat head chefs weren’t. BAD.)
Just a few commas, and you can make or break the fortunes of your (imaginary) restaurant chain client! Wish all your clients well by checking the punctuation in all your written materials.
©Eleanor Dugan, 2011, firstname.lastname@example.org
You will also find the comma can make a big difference in your sales presentation materials. For more information on sale presentation skills training check out Patricia Fripp’s training.
Hear Patricia Fripp speak…Patricia Fripp Sales Presentation Skills Trainer