“Grace, no execution”, the emperor decided. But his handlers wrote the order down as “Grace no, execution”. The emperor signed without a second look, and a head rolled needlessly because of a misplaced comma. Or so the story goes. In our era, we are more than ever under the tyranny of words, commas, dashes, slashes and dots – in our invented languages as well as in our natural ones.

Experts tell us time and again to watch our grammar and spelling on r