Using Proper Punctuations

Punctuation is considered to be one of the most fundamental aspects of writing. Proper punctuations determine the flow of writing. If you have used proper punctuations in your writing, it helps the readers to understand what exactly you want to convey. If wrong punctuations are used, the readers are left to decipher the actual meaning themselves, which can distract them from the actual purpose of reading. Using improper punctuations can taint a writer’s image completely. Consider the following sentence: “He wants to eat Dad” and “He wants to eat, Dad”. The missing comma in the first example has changed its meaning. Even a small error in using proper punctuations can alter the meaning of a sentence completely. There is a case about a company, which lost a very important and costly deal just because of a misplaced comma in its agreement contract. Despite punctuations being so important, people tend to take them very lightly, and some are even unaware of their use. It is always useful to know how to use proper punctuations. Here are a few tips for using proper punctuations in writing:

Tips for Using Proper Punctuations

Full Stop/End Period (.)

  • A full stop is used to denote the end of a sentence whose meaning is complete.

   He has gone to the market.

   There are so many birds in the courtyard.

   It was hot outside.

  • Do not use a full stop when the sentence ends with a question mark or an exclamation mark.

   Incorrect: When will you return to India?.

   Correct: When will you return to India?

   Incorrect: What an incredible display of fireworks!.

   Correct: What an incredible display of fireworks!

  • A full stop is used to denote an abbreviation. It is used if a word does not end with its last character.

   Professor – Prof.

   Doctor – Dr (No full stop is used here as the first and last letters are there).

   Note: In US English, it is written as Mr. and Dr.

  • If the last word of a sentence ends with a period, do not set another end period.

   You may go ahead with your meeting, shopping, partying, etc. I will join you later.

Comma (,)

  • A comma along with a conjunction is used to connect two independent clauses.

   As his ankle was injured, he couldn’t walk properly.

   He had many important appointments, yet he made it to the party.

  • A comma is used to separate three or more phrases/clauses that are written in a series.

   The government promised to take measures to bring down inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime rates.

   The victim was taken to a remote place, strangled to death, and then set on fire.

  • A comma is used after the phrase that precedes the subject of the sentence.

   After you reach office, please call me.

   If you don’t come home early, your father will be angry.

  • A comma is used to differentiate direct quotes.

   David Allen said, “You can do anything, but not everything.”

   “Walk up to that check post,” the cop ordered. “I need to talk to you.”

  • A comma is used to separate the statement from the question.

   I should help her, shouldn’t I?

  • A comma is used for separating contrasting parts of a sentence.

  That is my property, not yours.

  • A comma is used when the sentence begins with introductory words such as wellnow, yes, etc.

   Yes, I have to report this incident.

   Well, I never imagined that I would meet you again.

  • A comma is used before and after surrounding words (such as therefore and however) when they are used as interrupters.

   I would, therefore, want to book an early flight.

   I am willing, however, to vote for him.

Semicolon (;)

  • A semicolon is used to connect two independent clauses with closely related themes.

   John graduated in 2011; his brother graduated last year.

   Train is the most popular public transport; it is cheap and time-saving.

  • A semicolon is used to differentiate items in a series, which already contains other punctuation marks.

They had planned to visit California, Boston, and New York in USA; Spain, France, and Italy in Europe; and Melbourne and Perth in Australia.

Colon (:)

  • A colon is used to initiate a list.

   He likes all types of adventure sports: bungee jumping, para-sailing, sky diving, etc.

   His firm had many branches overseas: US, UK, Australia, Africa, etc.

  • A colon is used to introduce a direct quote. In this case, a colon should be placed at the end of a complete sentence.

 After suffering a huge loss, Harry remembered Shakespeare’s famous saying: “All that glitters is not gold.”

  • A colon is used to present an idea.

   The accused had only one option left: confess or face the consequences.

Apostrophe (’)

  • An apostrophe is used to show possession. In other words, it is used when we need to denote that a person/thing belongs to someone/something.

   Tom’s shirt (Tom’s shirt was neatly ironed).

   Dog’s paw (That dog’s paw was bleeding).

  • An apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of letter(s)/numbers.

   You’re (You are).

   She’s (She is/She has).

   ’84 (1984).

  • An apostrophe should not be used with possessive pronouns, which already indicate possession.

   Theirs, hers, ours, whose, yours, etc.

   Incorrect: That car is her’s.

   Correct: That car is hers.

Exclamation Mark (!)

  • An exclamation mark is used to emphasize a strong feeling of anger, surprise, excitement, joy, etc.

  “That shrine is marvellous!”

  “Hang on!” Jim yelled. “The tide will subside soon.”

  “Good grief!” John said. “How did they get inside the mall?”

We have discussed just a few of the common rules for using proper punctuations. This topic is quite vast with numerous rules dealing with every aspect of grammar. However, these tips are enough to provide you with a general idea regarding the use of proper punctuations in writing.