Yes, it can – even to first-language speakers!
The truth is, the written form of English is a code – but an open, public code, not a closed secret code. The Egyptians devised a code of writing – hieroglyphics – thousands of years ago, and it is pretty much Greek – I mean, Egyptian – to us. It is a closed code. At least English isn’t that unfathomable!

What is a code? A code is simply a set of symbols that represent things. For instance, computers function because of a binary code, which simply put is a coding system using the binary digits 0 and 1 to represent a letter, digit, or other character.

Another example would be Morse code, which is a system used for sending messages, in which letters and numbers are represented by short and long marks, sounds, or flashes of light. Our brains are super-computers manipulating the language code; and in this case, the alphabet is a set of symbols that represent individual sounds. When you put them together, you arrive at words. The CODE kicks in when one way of combining each word (its spelling) is agreed upon by everybody involved. That way, there can be no misunderstanding. Because, after all, accurate communication is the most important thing to keep misunderstandings from escalating into full-blown disagreements!
Words, of course, combine into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs, so the code operates there, as well, to make sure everyone understands the same thing.
Further, when you combine words into sentences, there has to be a doing word – a verb – to make sense of what is being said or written. (An agreed aspect of the code is that without a verb, a collection of words only form a phrase that can be included in a sentence to make proper sense.)
Punctuation is that part of the code that separates different sentences and different speakers. That’s where it is so handy to know how to avoid the dreaded “comma-splice error” – a sneaky comma that shows up when a full stop or a conjunction should actually be there. The tricks for inverted commas are important too – they are NOT handles for highlighting important words, but separators that tell you different people are speaking.

Communicating information often takes more than one sentence – which means you can write a whole paragraph of sentences on a particular aspect of a subject. The trick is to stick to one aspect per paragraph, and not mix them up. The best way to do that is to use the first sentence to name that aspect and then explain and give details of it in the rest of the sentences.
So the “secret” of this code is simply: SPSP which stands for Spelling/Punctuation/Sentences /Paragraphs.

Of course, this code has become pretty sophisticated over time, especially when it comes to details of grammar in sentences. And confusion and miscommunication happens when people are either unaware or choose to ignore the accepted tenets of the code. That’s when it really helps to have a great go-to resource such as The Proofreader’s Guide in the resource Writers INC : A Student Handbook for Writing and Learning. (This particular resource is included in our Love2Learn English curriculum for its outstanding investment value in your child’s education.)

But ultimately clear communication all boils down to the SPSP Code. Tick those boxes and you will find that making English understandable for others is no longer a mysterious process in any way!

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