Before I arrived at Pasco Airport, I receive an email from National Car Rental, the company I always use for my car rentals.
The message said, “No counter bypass: Proceed to the rental counter to pick up your vehicle keys.”
Because I so often read messages that do not include required hyphens, I supplied a hyphen in my mind. My quick-skim version of the sentence read “No-counter bypass.” When I arrived in Pasco, Washington, I tried to bypass the counter and go straight to the lot for my car.
Oops–my mistake. National really did mean “No counter bypass.” I could not bypass the counter. I had to stop at the counter to rent a car.
What a difference a hyphen makes! Next time I will assume that National’s punctuation is correct, read the entire sentence, and do as I am told.
If you want to master punctuation, try Punctuation for Professionals.