First, if you are up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I am performing my Psychobabble show today at 12.10 and 6.05.  Details here.

Second, without thinking about it too much, how would you punctuate this sentence…..

“A woman without her man is nothing”

In fact there, are two popular answers.  More after the break.


According to the ever reliable internet, women tend to write

“A woman: without her, man is nothing”

whilst men go with….

“A woman, without her man, is nothing”

Did it work for you?  Vote now!

42 comments

  1. It is correctly punctuated without any commas. All three are missing a full stop. I also agree with Julian as that is not a correct use of a colon.

  2. By the way, it’s “In fact, there are… “, not “In fact there, are … “. The comma goes after “In fact”.

    1. we have our winner!

      when i saw this sentence, i completely forgot the sentence that i was supposed to be punctuating. i guess that happens in a world where 22/7=pi and ropes don’t hang in catenaries.

    1. Yes. In fact, the phrase “without her man” being essential to the meaning of the sentence should not be set off with commas for that particular option.

  3. Edwardv – it’s valid but a bit of an odd sentence. You can use ‘without’ in the old sense of outside so it would mean: if a woman is out, her man is nothing in her absence. Or – there’s a woman at the door: her man is nothing – which you might strain to explain. Also, a lot of people now use a dash instead of a colon.

  4. The experiment has nothing to do with punctuation. You’re supposed to hand the sentence to someone and ask them to read it out loud. And it should read: ‘A WOMAN -line break- WITHOUT HER -line break- MAN IS NOTHING’.

    1. Martha – if you read it aloud, you are punctuating it in your head in order to decide where to pause/ place stresses.

  5. It doesn’t strictly lead to the second punctuation, because in that case it would inconsistently refer to women and men in general “A women” (with the indefinite article) versus “man” (without it). Should be “Woman without her man is nothing” or possibly “A woman without her a man is nothing”. Pedantic, but so is the rest of this…

  6. It’s up to the person who wrote the sentance to punctuate it and clearly express their opinion, I wouldn’t say either of the re-punctuated options

  7. Well, as a man, I initially punctuated it as (according to your survey) a woman supposedly punctuates it; but then I saw quite a few ways to punctuate the sentence as well, including: “A woman; without her, man is nothing,” “A woman without; her man is nothing,” “A woman without her man is nothing,” and (same thing, just with better grammatical emphasis) “A woman, without her man, is nothing” (with which I disagree anyway). Interesting one, this, Richard. Thanks for that delightful brain workout 😀

  8. Opinions without understanding are less than nothing. But seriously, the difference lies in whether “her” is being used as a pronoun or an adjective. And to clarify this distinction certainly DOES rely on punctuation. Unless you simply don’t care about how your words are being interpreted.

  9. Yo, pedants… it’s about how the meaning of the sentence changes given different punctuation and how that ties to gender. It’s not about how many different ways it could be punctuated.

  10. not to sound like a pretentious douche against women, but in the females punctuation “A woman” is singular, and “man is nothing” (meaning all man kind) is plural.. mixing singular and plural in a manner such as this is considered poor grammar. therefore, it should be “women: without her, man is nothing” or “Woman: without her, man is nothing” making the “males” punctuation the only correct one for the given words. so if you’re a girl and you punctuated it the “boys” way, congratulations. you probably passed English in school.

  11. may be we just need to see if it is translated from other languages bcoz native speakers might know what it means exactly if it is a proverb ot saying but i think it is “A woman without her man is nothing” with out her lover what do u say? well i think it is the boys way

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