Whether your writing is meant for a professional audience or simply to entertain, there is a perception in every way we form a sentence that can change the meaning for every individual who reads it.
I took a picture of this punctuated road sign in my neighborhood while I was walking this afternoon, and thought it was a perfect example.
I’ve had this conversation previously and some believe this particular road sign gives an incorrect message to drivers. I do not claim to be smarter than anyone else, and I always say “only those who are perfect have the right to judge,” however, I do think there are differences in the perception of this particular street sign, and it may not be a question of whether it is grammatically correct.
To some, “Slow Children” implies that there are slow children in the surrounding area, when truly, what the sign is conveying is, “Slow down. Don’t speed. There are children living and playing here and we want to keep them safe.”
Adding the comma, as this person chose to do, may change the connotation of “slow children” to the command, “slow, children” indicating that ‘slow’ is the verb, rather than an adjective. Some might argue, the proper punctuation would be a period. Slow. This is a sentence in itself, with the subject (you) implied and the verb completing the sentence. But then, are we telling the drivers or the children to slow? Come on, it’s a road sign. Its audience is implied by its presence. It wasn’t meant for 3-year-old pedestrians.
In conclusion, when writing, always remember your audience and their perception of your message. Grammar and punctuation are important, but what is critical is that we slow down, and understand what’s really being said.