On today’s BBC website, in an article on the US-Mexico border wall, an important punctuation mark has gone AWOL: ‘A government watchdog is also reviewing compulsory purchases being made along the US-Mexico border with property owners resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to build on private land.’
The missing comma between border and with introduces ambiguity: a busy reader scanning the text could interpret it as meaning ‘the watchdog was reviewing compulsory purchases together with/alongside property owners’, as opposed to the sense of ‘against a backdrop of property owners resisting the Trump administration’. Omitting the comma changes the meaning completely.
Inserting a comma after border would signal to the reader that additional information is coming, ie that private property owners are resisting the Administration building on their land.
The primary purpose of punctuation is to clarify meaning. And when it comes to navigating the minefield of ‘fake news’, clarity is all.