Punctuation Marks in English

Punctuation Marks in English


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Punctuation Marks in English

Say Goodbye to Punctuation Errors Punctuation Marks in English

Does everyone make punctuation errors? See, I’ve made one right there.

Punctuation errors can bother pretty much everyone, whether it’s a professional expert or a green rookie. If you’re trying to make your content come out perfectly without any sort of imperfections, read this post till the end. Punctuation Marks in English

We’ll look at some common punctuation elements as well as the correct way to use them. Then, we’ll wrap up with some tips on how you can avoid them to begin with.

Common Types of Punctuation Marks and How to Use Them Properly

There are quite a lot of punctuation marks in the English language (Thesaurus.com counts 26) and going into all of them could be a tad difficult. We’ll stick to explaining the common ones by giving a brief description and an example.

1.     Comma

The comma is one of the most ‘comma-nly’ used punctuation marks in English. Unlike others, like the question mark and the period, there is not one specific use for the comma. A comma can be used to join two clauses together or separate items in a list. Here is an example:

He whacked the windshield, but the club bounced back on his face.” (Joining clauses)

The man ate mayonnaise, potatoes, cheese, berries, and cupcakes in a single swallow.” (Separating items in a list)

Commas can also be used to mention a non-restrictive element in a sentence. Non-restrictive elements are those parts of a sentence that don’t impact its overall meaning.

Here is an example of this as well:

My cat, which happened to be a strange 6-foot striped animal, was sick.” (Mentioning a non-restrictive element)

In the above sentence, the actual meaning that needs to be conveyed is “My cat was sick.” The additional detail does not change the meaning, which is why it is a non-restrictive element.

What Not to Do with a Comma?

That was it as far as correctly using the comma goes. But, since this is one of the most commonly used punctuation marks, it is also the one that a lot of people can have trouble getting the hang of.

Now that we’re done looking at what the comma is and how you can use it properly, let’s take a look at some common mistakes related to it. Once you understand those mistakes, you’ll be less likely to make them yourself.

  1. Comma splices: A comma splice refers to the error of joining two independent clauses using a comma without a coordinating conjunction. Here is an example of this:
    1. The person went to the store, the cashier threw coffee at him. (This is wrong since there is no coordinating conjunction between the two independent clauses.)
    2. The person went to the store, and the cashier threw coffee at him.(This one is correct since the word “and” has been used in between.)


  1. Omitting the comma after an introductory phrase: This is yet another mistake that rookies can make with the comma. An introductory phrase is essentially a group of words that tells the reader something additional about the clause that comes after it. For example, in the sentence “After having devoured the chicken, the wolf turned his eyes on the cream pies…” the phrase “After having devoured the chicken…” is the introductory phrase. The second clause does make sense on its own, but the introductory phrase helps to give some additional information about it.
    Here is an example:

    1. Once Harry was done painting the fence he started painting his cat.(This is wrong since the comma is missing after the word ‘fence’.)
    2. Once Harry was done painting the fence, he started painting his cat. (This is correct since the comma appears after the word ‘fence’)


  1. Omitting the comma in a compound sentence: A compound sentence is a sentence that contains two or more independent clauses. An independent clause is one that makes sense on its own, and it can form a sentence by itself. Here is an example:
    1. The person was walking and the dog was biting him. (This is incorrect since both clauses in this sentence are independent and they need to have a comma between them.)
    2. The person was walking, and the dog was biting him. (This is correct since the comma is placed before the coordinating conjunction i.e., “and”.)

2.     Period

Now that we’re done with the comma, let’s move on to talk about the period.

The use of the period is simple, and there aren’t a lot of mistakes that people can make with it. In essence, the period (or the full stop) is used to mark the end of a sentence. A period can also be used to show the end of an abbreviation, such as the words “etc.” and “e.g.,”

Here is an example of how you can use a period in a sentence:

The person fled the scene. The police chased him and caught him near the shopping mall.

Punctuation Marks in English

What Not to do With a Period

The one main problem that people can have with using the full stop is omitting it from between two independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction.

Here is an example:

The person went to the store, the lady chucked a car tire at him.

This sentence is incorrect since the two independent clauses are not joined together with a coordinating conjunction or a period. The two correct versions of this sentence are as follows:

The person went to the store, and the lady chucked a car tire at him.

The person went to the store. The lady chucked a car tire at him.

3.     Apostrophe

The apostrophe is also something that a lot of people can employ incorrectly, especially when it comes to the whole “its” and “it’s” affair.

Let’s explain this one in detail.

According to Merriam-Webster, the apostrophe is:

“…a mark ‘ used to indicate the omission of letters or figures, the possessive case (as in “John’s book”), or the plural of letters or figures (as in “the 1960’s”)…”

Considering this definition, there are three main uses that we can attribute to the apostrophe:

  1. Showing possession
  2. Omission of letters/figures (as is the case with contractions)
  3. Or showing the plural of figures or letters (this differs with the various types of English)

When it comes to showing possession, the apostrophe is used either before the ending “s” or after it.

In a singular noun, the apostrophe comes before the “s”, such as:

John’s cat OR Dave’s car

In a plural noun, the apostrophe comes after the ending “s” and “es”, such as:

students’ room OR masses’ demands

However, the exception to this rule is the word “its”. “Its” without the apostrophe indicates possession whereas “it’s” is the contraction of “it is”.

We dilated so much on the possessive case because this is the part where a lot of people can get confused. As for the other uses of the apostrophe, there isn’t too much stuff to get confused about.

Punctuation Marks in English

4.     Colons and Semicolons

Semicolons and colons are also two commonly used punctuation marks. But some people can have trouble differing the use of one of them from the other. So, let’s talk about both of those separately.

When it comes to the semicolon, the University of South Florida enumerates three different situations where it can be used. These are:

  1. To merge sentences without a conjunction or a connecting word

The dog was yelping; it was very hungry.

  1. To merge sentences using a conjunctive adverb that is immediately followed by a comma

The food was delicious; however, a lot of people didn’t get a chance to eat it.

  1. To enumerate items in a list when all of them already consist of a comma. In this case, the comma cannot be used for separation since it is already a part of the enumerated items.

The family went to Orlando, Florida; Dallas, Texas; and Madison, Wisconsin on their strange trip around the USA.

On the other hand, the colon is most commonly used when a complete sentence has to be immediately followed by an explanation.

Here is an example of a colon: just read this sentence.

Punctuation Marks in English

Ways to Avoid Punctuation Errors in Your Work

Well, those were some of the common punctuation marks that people can usually have trouble with when writing stuff. But, simply knowing about them is not enough. You can always make mistakes and errors without realizing them.

Before ending this post, we will look at some ways in which you can avoid getting punctuation errors in your final draft, be it an essay or a blog, or any other type of content.

1.     Be Particular about Proofreading Your Content

When proofreading your content, there is an almost 100% chance of finding some errors that you may have made unintentionally. By unintentionally, we mean such errors that are not made due to a lack of knowledge, but due to the general human tendency to overlook things once in a while.

Punctuation Marks in English

Image from Unsplash

So, before finalizing your content, you should make it a habit to proofread it at least 2 – 3 times. This way, you will be able to reduce the chances of punctuation checkers showing up in the final draft.

Some tips to keep in mind for effective proofreading are:

  • Always proofread content after some time. Don’t re-read it instantly after writing it. You won’t be able to catch a lot of errors that way.
  • Proofread backward. That way, your mind will be more focused on the mistakes of the content rather than its meaning.
  • Look for specific errors. If you’re prone to go wrong with the comma, look especially for comma-related errors in the content. If you have a specific type of error in mind, you can spot them quickly and easily.

2.     Use Grammar Checkers

Another good way to avoid getting punctuation errors in your content is to use an online punctuation checker after you’re done with the draft. These online are made to detect grammar/punctuation errors in a piece of content. Some good ones, like Grammarly and Grammarcheck.ai, provide solutions and suggestions to correct errors.

Using these types of grammar checkers can give you a two-fold benefit. They can:

  1. Help you to get rid of punctuation errors in your content
  2. Help you learn about new punctuation and grammar rules

To show you what we mean, here is an image of the grammar checker byGrammarcheck.ai:

Punctuation Marks in English

As you can see in the image above, the suggestion for the error has been provided along with the basic underlining/highlighting.

3.      Keep Brushing Up on the Basics

To make sure that you don’t lose touch with the basics of punctuation, it’s always a good idea to revise them every now and then. You can do this by simply reading a manual or taking a short course every once in a while.

You can always come back to this post and give it a re-read. You can also head over to some of our other blogs, such as this one on sentence correction.


Punctuation errors are made by almost everyone. But, although they can be committed easily, they should not be published in the final draft.

To make sure that your work always comes out perfect (vis-à-vis punctuation), there are a number of different things that you can do. To begin with, you have to get yourself properly acquainted with the different rules associated with the various punctuation marks and symbols. We mentioned some common punctuation marks and their correct usage at the top of this post.

Of course, as we mentioned above, knowing about punctuation marks alone is not enough. You also have to take other steps to ensure that there are no errors in your content once you are done writing it. Some of these steps include careful proofreading and using reliable grammar checkers.

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Punctuation Marks in English

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