I’ve already posted tons of info on how to improve one’s writing quickly–mostly referring to style and organizational techniques. Today I’ve been retrospecting on some of my posts, and I was surprised to find out that I never dedicated not even one post to punctuation. This truly is an important and tricky part of writing. Hurrying to fix this injustice, I sketched out some quick tips that will teach you how to use specific punctuation marks correctly.
I ignored all the intricacies and nuances of English punctuation (which are so numerous, one could write a book about it); instead, I focused on the most common usages. So, let’s roll.
- Use them when you list items. For example, “I really like fruit: bananas, mangos, kiwis, and other stuff like that.”
Commas connect two clauses that are related in meaning. “We can stay here and wait, or we can go and try searching for Stephany.”
- After introductory words or phrases, commas are most welcome.
- If you insert a phrase in the middle of a main clause, mark it with commas from both sides. “I could have called you, of course, but I didn’t want to.”
- The most common rule is to put a semicolon between two independent clauses. “Sue and I decided we need to go and at least try to find some help, but Sean and Jack preferred to wait; we never saw them again.”
- When listing something, and the items in the list are excessively long to separate them by simple commas, a semicolon is what you need. “I did everything for Mary: I paid for her crazy adventures and ruinous shopping tours; I helped all of her friends, and made them my friends as well; I was there to fulfill her tiniest wishes, even before she knew what she wanted herself. Whatever she wanted or needed, I made it happen.”
- Indicates possession. “Mark’s pen is better than mine.” For singular nouns, it’s ‘s, for plurals, s’.
- Indicates contraction, like “it’s” in the previous sentence. Don’t, ain’t, it’s, didn’t, and so on are also contractions.
This is it so far. See you next time with a new portion of quick punctuation tips. Good luck!
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