The importance of good syntax

If you’ve ever read the book ‘Eats shoots and leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation’, you’ll appreciate the need for putting commas in their correct places. You’ll understand the value of a well-placed apostrophe.

Language can be a minefield of ambiguity, and the misuse of punctuation – deliberate or accidental – can lead to misunderstandings great and small. Whilst it may not be true that world wars have been started because of a poorly constructed sentence, it is probable that there have been some avoidable disagreements which have escalated, all because of a lack of precision.

So pity the poor web designer or programmer. If you inadvertently add a comma in describing a giant panda – eats, shoots and leaves – you could be misunderstood. The listener may think you are suggesting that the panda is a supporter of the 2nd Amendment – that’s the one in the American constutition which talks about the right to bear armsĀ  (although, not as some right wing American would have us believe, the right to carry semi-automatic assault rifles whilst shopping in the supermarket).

But if a programmer leaves out a comma – or a bracket, curly bracket, full stop, and so on – the result can be disaster. Not just a little misunderstanding but a completely blank screen. Put a / (forward slash) in the wrong place on the page you are currently reading and everything literally disappears.

The point of this post? Obviously to elicit sympathy for the community of web designers. (So if you have tears of sympathy in your eyes, consider a donation to you local website designers’ charity. If there isn’t one, give us a call and we’ll set one up for you). But also to highlight the fact that, like language, web programming requires skill and precision, and is therefore something best left to the professionals (rather than somebody you met down the pub)!