The Most Common Punctuation Mistakes You Should Avoid

The Most Common Punctuation Mistakes You Should Avoid

Written by Bernadine Racoma

January 21, 2021

The symbols that you use when writing, which help in adding comprehension and clarity, are called punctuation marks. Punctuation marks help structure and organize sentences, creating the correct stops when writing sentences.

Most common punctuation marks

In English grammar, 14 punctuation marks are used. In terms of usage, the period (.) takes the first spot, followed by the comma (,). Here are the most common:

  1. Period
  2. Comma
  3. Question mark
  4. Exclamation point
  5. Semicolon
  6. Colon
  7. Apostrophe
  8. Quotation marks
  9. Parentheses
  10. Brackets
  11. Braces
  12. Hyphen
  13. Dash
  14. Ellipsis

Using these punctuation marks will create correct sentences and ensure the proper delivery of the intended message. Punctuation marks regulate the written form of speech, making the written work more appealing and easier to read.

Common punctuation mistakes and how to avoid them

If you are creating a catalog, blog, article, news, magazine, book, contracts, presentations, and other written documents, using the right punctuation marks and learning the rules of grammar will make your work an excellent one.

Non-essential apostrophes

Many people make the mistake of using apostrophes in words where they are not needed. For example: Ten dollar’s off. It is all your’s.

In the first example, the writer wants to indicate the plural form. Therefore, it only needs the addition of “s” rather than with an apostrophe. In the second example, it seeks to indicate the possessive form, therefore, the apostrophe is not necessary.

However, to show the possessive form for a singular noun, you should add an apostrophe, like in these examples: a boy’s toy, a lady’s dress, or a person’s book. An apostrophe can also be used to indicate a contraction, for example, can’t for cannot, wouldn’t for would not, and couldn’t for could not.

Needless quotation marks

Many people insist on using quotation marks even if they are not quoting anything. They instead use them to give more focus to a phrase. This practice is not correct, whether you are using single or double quotation marks. The way to better emphasize a point is to italicize the word or make it bold.

Missing some commas

You need commas to break up a sentence to avoid having run-on blocks of text. It is also very difficult to read a very long sentence without a pause. You can avoid this by reading the sentence aloud and noting when you make a pause. Those pauses are the areas where you should add a comma.

Excess commas

In some instances, people use too many commas in a sentence. You use a comma to separate elements when you have a series of things or when you want to separate two independent clauses. But it most cases, instead of using commas to separate various elements in a long sentence, it is better to break it up into short sentences.

Too many exclamation points

Ending each phrase or sentence with an exclamation point can be overwhelming. Make your writing more tasteful by limiting the use of exclamation points. Use them judiciously so you put more emphasis on the biggest point.

Its or it’s

It is easy to misuse the two although they are different. Its is a possessive determiner, while it’s is a contraction of it is. Therefore, you have to be careful when using these words. One thing you can do it to check if it needs an apostrophe. For example, in the sentence, “The radio lost its sound,” look if it will be all right if you substitute it has or it is. If the sentence looks correct, you use it’s. But if not, then using its is the right choice.

Dash or hyphen

The hyphen and dash are both horizontal lines. A hyphen is shorter than the dash and each one functions differently.

You use a hyphen to combine two words to form a single idea (community-based), to turn two words into an adjective (rock-hard, load-bearing) or write compound numbers such as forty-five.

Use a dash (longer horizontal line) when you’re moving into another train of thought or a separate idea. You can use it instead of having multiple commas, or replace a colon or parentheses. There are two forms of the dash, the en dash () and the em dash ().

Semicolon or colon

Avoid using a semicolon to replace a comma to indicate a pause. Sometimes, it is better to use a period instead of making a mistake. Use a semicolon to separate two related but separate thoughts. Use a colon when you have a list of items in the sentence.

Placement of quotation marks

Some people place a sentence-ending punctuation mark outside of quotation marks. When using American English, the quotation mark should enclose the punctuation. However, you can also place the ending punctuation mark after the quotation mark if it applies to the entire sentence. For example, you should write: Does Manager Jones always say to her staff, “You must come to work earlier”?

To ensure that you are using the right punctuation all the time, follow the guidelines:

  • End a sentence with a period, question mark or an exclamation point.
  • Use a comma to separate ideas or elements. Use a semicolon to connect or show the relationship of independent clauses and a colon to introduce a series, an example, an explanation, or a quotation.
  • Learn the proper time to use a dash, hyphen, ellipsis, and parentheses, and right positioning of apostrophes and quotation marks, as outlined earlier.
  • When in doubt, use a dictionary or a grammar reference book.

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