Usually, when a piece of text is translated from one language to some other language, and (due to slightly different idioms, phrases, words, etc.) the end meaning is changed, then it is attributed to the phenomenon "Lost in Translation".

Now, suppose a piece of text in English is edited for punctuation only, and the end meaning is changed. Is there a way to describe this situation?

Can we say it was "Lost in Punctuation"?

While researching this, I could not find my made-up phrase, and all my web searches led to either funny examples of punctuation changes, or rarely-used punctuation symbols, or why punctuation matters.

Hopefully, the folks at ELU can point out an appropriate phrase or coin a new one.

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    It's very rare to have something edited for punctuation, and end up changing the meaning (yes, I know "eats, shoots, and leaves"). So there probably isn't an idiom for it that already exists. Your suggestion is good. Apr 22, 2015 at 14:56
  • sure, that's clever.
    – Mitch
    Apr 22, 2015 at 14:56
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    I hope you don’t feel my edit has left anything Lost in Capitalisation. ;-) Apr 22, 2015 at 15:16
  • @JanusBahsJacquet , a few Capitals were indeed lost !!!!
    – Prem
    Apr 22, 2015 at 16:15

1 Answer 1


The term "punctuation" isn't generally used to refer to the process of punctuating (which is an integral part of the process of writing). Rather, "punctuation" usually refers to a specific case or a collection of cases of punctuation marks as used in a piece of writing. And it's generally assumed that the author is responsible for punctuation--not an editor. If you want to make your meaning clearer to someone who has never heard such a term before, you should use a more semantically useful word.

Try "lost in revision" instead. This term is used, albeit rarely, in the writing world already, and the words carry enough meaning as-is to convey what you mean while simultaneously invoking the figure of speech "lost in translation" to the effect you're wanting.

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    Punctuation is certainly used as a pseudo-verbal noun corresponding to the verb punctuate. While an editor as such may not do much about the punctuation in a text (in my experience, they indeed do not), the proofreader of the text will absolutely fix it. If they do so incorrectly, something may indeed be lost in punctuation. “Lost in revision”, on the other hand, does not specify what the revision is. Taking out an entire chapter from a book is revision. Since the question asks specifically about changes in meaning brought on by altering the punctuation in a text, it's not a good fit. Apr 22, 2015 at 16:21
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    @Janus Bahs Jacquet If altering punctuation changes the meaning of the revised text, the act ceases to be proofreading and instead becomes editing.
    – R Mac
    Apr 22, 2015 at 20:31
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    @Prem A simple Google search of the phrase "lost in revision" will return many hits. As for the appropriateness of using "punctuation" in reference to the act of punctuating, while this usage is technically correct (and is sometimes used in this way), the term generally (as I said) refers to the marks themselves. I still suggest "lost in revision" if you do not know your audience very well because the word "revision" is accurate and concise, even if not as specific as possible (with respect to "proofreading" vs. "editing"). I don't think "lost in editing" would confused anyone, either.
    – R Mac
    Apr 22, 2015 at 20:34
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    @RMac Well, that depends, in theory, on whether the change in meaning is intentional or not. But yes, proofreaders do quite a lot of stylistic editing, since editors frequently focus on content, rather than language and style. Apr 22, 2015 at 20:34
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    @JanusBahsJacquet All true, and I don't think we have a disagreement here. I do believe more readers or listeners are likely to understand your meaning if you use "lost in revision" or "lost in editing", though, and the advantage of these terms is that they can be understood without the need for further clarification by more people. If you're looking for a completely semantically correct phrase, some more information about your audience would help, as the "correct" words might not be understood correctly by certain audiences.
    – R Mac
    Apr 22, 2015 at 20:39

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