Pondering this as I was slouched on the sofa, taking in one of the swimming finals on the tube, I thought back to my brief college internship at a local public television station. Let me sum it up this way: If they’d awarded medals for the most inept intern of that year, I would’ve taken the gold, silver and bronze.
One incident that especially endeared me to the studio staff occurred while I was assigned as a floor manager for a live broadcast. Crouching beneath one of the cameras, I’d given the show’s host the usual countdown, and now it was time to give her the “on the air” cue. I pointed to her, she squinted into space, and I was reassigned quicker than one could say “Get her off this set!” You see, no one had instructed me to use my arm in a fully extended, forceful, downward thrust—TV’s tacit equivalent of “You’re on!” No one had explained to me just how important that gesture was or why. And no one had told me she was nearsighted.
When we write, we don’t have the advantage of using gestures, signals or any other nonverbal communication. Instead, we rely on using the right words and the appropriate symbols—i.e., punctuation—to relay our messages accurately to our readers.