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Punctuation Rules To Write Like a Pro

Punctuation Rules To Write Like a Pro

If you’re a novice writer, you should always proofread your work carefully before clicking on the button to share or publish it.


This includes blogs that you might have or those you choose to comment on. Misused punctuation can give a wrong first impression of what you’re attempting to project about your writing skills.


This may add on to the time it takes to get a product out or to communicate with others, but eventually the rules will be embedded in your thinking process and you won’t have to look up a rule before you write.


Here are some of the most common punctuation mistakes and some examples to demonstrate how it should be punctuated:


·         Commas - Commas are used to separated thoughts or clauses within a sentence. The rule is that there must be a conjunction (such as ‘and’) joining the clauses.




Correct: “I’ve studied hard, and I believe I’ll pass the test.”


Wrong: “I’ve studied hard, I believe I’ll pass the test.”


You can clearly see that if the conjunction ‘and’ wasn’t present in the sentence it would sound unnatural.


Correct: I’ve studied hard. I believe I’ll pass the test.


Another correct way to write the sentence is to place a period between thoughts:


·         Quotation Marks – It’s easy to see how writers can be confused about how to use quotation marks. There are so many ways it can be done.


You can use them singularly or double, direct or indirect quotes, preceding or following speaker tags or to set off words that have special meanings.




The professor made a point in class when he said, “Remember the quote from Benjamin Franklin, ‘Energy and persistence conquer all things’.”


This sentence uses a quote within a quotation. Single quotation marks are used for the inner quotation from Benjamin Franklin.


“Don’t tell me that you’re not coming,” she said, “because that will ruin the party.”


Using this form of quotation marks is called ‘interrupted direct quotations.’ You see this style commonly when reading novels.


The professor said, “If you’ll study your lecture notes from this semester, you’ll pass the test.”


A comma separates the speaker tag and the quote in this sentence.


“That was an incredible movie! The actors were perfect in their roles.”


You can enclose the entire quote with quotation marks because there is no interruption in the sentences.


She commented that the manual was too “technical” for her to follow.


‘Technical’ is a word that the writer wants to set apart in this sentence.


Keep in mind that you should use quotation marks sparingly in your writing because they can clutter up a page if there are too many and confuse the reader.


On the other hand, if quotation marks aren’t used where they should be, this too can be confusing.


·         Quotation Marks for Emphasis - If you’re an Internet Marketer or writing for Internet Marketers, you’ll want to know how to use quotation marks (and when not to) - especially when used for emphasis in sales copy.




Correct: “You’ll receive a free gift!”


Wrong: “You’ll receive a “free” gift!”


Even though both ways are actually correct, it’s much better to use bold face to emphasize the word ‘free’ rather than using quotation marks.


·         Hyphenation – Hyphenation commonly occurs in compound words, especially when the words are being used as adjectives before a noun.


Don’t confuse hyphens with dashes and the minus sign.




By using the trial-and-error method in the experiment, he came to a conclusion.




We tackle those tasks on a day-to-day basis.


Notice that spaces aren’t necessary between a hyphen and the words it’s connecting.


Keep in mind that hyphens and dashes are mainly used to divide thoughts and/or make reading easier.


·         Colon or Semi-colon? – These two punctuation marks are very confusing, but when used correctly in writing they can be very helpful. The purposes of these two punctuation marks are entirely different.


Use the colon before listing a group of items. The semi-colon is used to join two parts of a sentence (clauses).



Please bring the following items to school with you: pencils, paper, pen and laptop.

Here, you’re setting up the reader to know which items should be brought to school, and then the items are listed.

I don’t know why I’m afraid of water; I’ve never had a bad experience.

In this sentence, you’re stating a fact and then elaborating on the same subject. Actually, the two thoughts could work as separate sentences, too.

·         Parentheses – A ‘parenthetical’ expression means that you’re using parentheses to add a thought or tidbit to the sentence because it adds to or better explains the sentence.

You can also use parentheses to indicate separation, for example with numbers.


My dog sleeps with me (she’s somewhat spoiled) at the foot of the bed.

This parenthetical expression adds a bit of humor to the sentence without it being an actual part of the main idea in the sentence.

(1), (2), (3) or (a), (b), (c). Parentheses work well in instances when you’re making lists.

·         Dashes – The ‘dash’ is used to set apart and emphasize a word or group of words. They can also be used in sentences to set off words or names that contain commas between them.


I wanted to be able to tell you a few things – how I’m making money, where I’m using my keywords – but I don’t have enough time.


In the above case, you’re separating the thought slightly and continuing on after the second dash.


The people on the committee – Joe Grimes, Ava Petrie, John Folsom and Grace Ward – have come to a conclusion about where we should have the picnic.

·         Apostrophes – There are so many rules about when and when not to use apostrophes when writing. It’s probably the most-used punctuation mark in the English language.

One of the ways an apostrophe is used is to form contractions. A contraction is a shortened version of a word or group of words by leaving out letters and replacing them with an apostrophe.


Don’t forget your coat when you leave the office today.

‘Don’t’ is the contraction used for the words, ‘do not.’


They aren’t going to be here tonight.

‘Aren’t’ is the contraction used for ‘are not.’

Another way to use an apostrophe is to show possession.


When Maya’s house is finished, you can decorate it.

‘Maya’s house’ shows that Maya possesses the house.


Charlie and Ben’s vacation plans were discussed over lunch.

‘Charlie and Ben’s’ shows that both have the vacation plans.

Keep in mind that you can use an apostrophe for plural nouns – except when they end in an ‘s.’


The students’ work to feed the hungry helped the community.

An apostrophe is used to show the plurality of the ‘students.’


The Edwards’ car was broken into when they were having dinner.

The apostrophe shows that the car belonged to the “Edwards” family.

If you have trouble using apostrophes with certain words or forms of words, it’s a good idea to keep a list next to the computer when you’re writing and refer to it if you’re confused.

·         Slashes – Although slashes (/) aren’t commonly used when writing English, they are useful sometimes.


When you cross over the border to Mexico, you’ll need a picture form of identification and/or a passport.

The slash in this sentence offers an alternative. You can either use a picture form of identification and a passport or at least one of the identification forms.

Make sure that s/he has everything necessary for the big engagement party.

In this case, s/he means that you can interpret it as ‘she’ or ‘he.’

The classes of 1964/1965 will have a reunion together.

The slash between the two years is used to separate a period of time.

We’ll need a technical/creative writer to fill the job.

The slash here is used to show that the writer will need both skills for the job.

Other uses for slashes include using it to represent the word, per, in scientific units, fractions and in some abbreviations such as c/o (meaning ‘in care of’).

·         Ellipsis – You’ve probably noticed the three periods in a row in writing, but may not have known that they’re called ‘ellipsis.’ The use of an ellipsis in writing indicates that figures or words are missing and are mostly used with quotations.


It doesn’t matter if the children get out an hour early…we can arrange our schedules.

Here, it’s used as a slight pause rather than making two complete sentences.

The Declaration of Independence begins, “When in the course of human events…”

Here, the ellipsis is used to indicate that the content goes on, but you’re showing only the beginning portion of it.

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