Although punctuation is of utmost importance for successful writing, using punctuation marks correctly is probably the most neglected writing skill. The most common mistakes in terms of punctuation can be divided into those referring to the use of apostrophe, comma and hyphen:
- Use an apostrophe when writing a contraction and pay attention to its place in a word. However, it is worth mentioning that contractions are not common in formal style in general.
Lets take care of our planet.
We could’nt get there on time.
Let’s take care of our planet.
We couldn’t get there on time.
- Use an apostrophe to form the possessive case of nouns and mind its position for singular nouns (before -s) and plural nouns (after -s).
- Use a comma and a conjunction to join clauses of a compound sentence: The ideas are important for a successful essay, yet they can be totally destroyed if the grammar is poor.
- Comma is used to separate information attached to the beginning or the end of sentence if this position is syntactically unusual.
Many years ago the experiment was carried out.
Many years ago, the experiment was carried out.
The experiment was carried out many years ago.
- Comma is necessary between each item of a list when you are enumerating three or more items in a sentence: Grammar, vocabulary, style, and original ideas are important components of an essay.
- Use a comma to separate epithets used before a noun they describe: It was a challenging, time-consuming task.
- Use commas to single out appositions, parenthetic words and constructions and non-defining relative clauses.
Her father, Professor Johns, was a famous scientist.
A first year student, who knows very little about the routine of a university life, can face many problems.
And, last but not least, remember to meet the deadline.
- Commas set off quoted phrase from the one that introduces it: As a famous poet once said, “He who is tired of London is tired of life.”
- In written American English, commas are also used to set off numbers in groups of three digits, words for the day of the week, month and year of a date.
The total company’s turnover is $5,000,000.
The paper is due Monday, December, 7th, 2010.
- Use hyphens with compound adjectives and numbers (e.g. time-consuming, twenty-one, etc.) and prefixes self-, ex-, great- (e.g. self-efficient, ex-president).
Keep to these useful tips and you are sure to avoid many mistakes.