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Punctuation is the essence of good language that can help you bring the best, out of your writing. Using the correct English punctuation rules wherever necessary, can add meaning to words, thus helping your copy to stand out, among the rest. At times, you may find out that a well-researched paper has received a bad marking. Even for an article that is rich in details, you can end up losing valuable marks, because your writing wasn’t punctuated accurately. Be it prose or poetry, punctuation rules make your writing perfect.
If you want to ensure that your efforts are well recognised, then you must take every measure to ensure that your paper receives impressive grades.
If you want your professor to resonate with your writing, then punctuations can add substantial value to your writing. If you are still making common punctuation mistakes, then here are the most important rules of punctuation, that you must start following TODAY!.
1. Use of apostrophe
Remember your pronoun classes in which you were taught about the punctuation, that helped to determine the possessive pronoun clause? Now, most students tend to neglect the use of the apostrophe, while denoting a possessive form.
(For example, Sheila’s books, Claire’s house, etc.)
But that is certainly not all! The apostrophe is also used to shorten certain words like she is becomes she’s, and they are becomes they’re. Students know how to use these words in possessive forms and constrictions, and make the mistake of using the apostrophe in plural forms. For example, it should be “We are dining with the Jonases” and not Jonas’s.
However, there is an exception to this rule. You can use an apostrophe to indicate the plurals of abbreviations like PhD’s and M.D.’s.
2. Correct punctuation rule for quotations
You are quite familiar with the use of quotations marks that are used to denote the verbatim or the direct speech spoken by a person. Quite often, you quote a famous personality in your writing. While it makes your writing more engaging, misusing the quotation marks would have an adverse effect on your grades. You need to use full stops and commas inside quotes – that is the primary punctuation rule for quotes.
For example, “I would like to go to the party, along with a friend, provided Sam isn’t there.”
For the above example, note how the comma and the period go inside the quotation marks. After you have closed quotes of the dialogue, the punctuation rule is not to use the period, outside the “quotes” again.
The similarity between colons and semi-colons is that both these punctuation marks can be used, to connect two independent clauses. However, there are differences in the way you apply them.
Semi-colons should be used to separate two related thoughts, that are distinct from each other. Generally, semi-colons can be considered instead of a period if you do not want to break an idea into two separate sentences.
For example: I am glad that you have come; we were looking forward to meeting you.
In the above sentence, you can see how a full-stop could have been relevant too. The two segments of the sentence that are set apart by the semi-colon can be easily considered as two separate complete sentences.
Note: Check Image. 1 to see how commas are different from semi-colons.
However, a colon can be used to set a list of items. For cases when a clause explains the second clause in a sentence, you need to use a colon.
For example: Please bring the following items to school: a craft book, colour pencils and pastel colours.
According to the English punctuation rules, commas can be used after and not before phrases, or clauses that define the main clause.
For example: While I was eating, someone knocked at the door is the correct form.
However, Someone knocked at the door, while I was eating is incorrect. In this case, you should omit the comma.
You should also use commas after introductory words like yes, well, and however.
For example: Yes, we will definitely help you.
Commas are also used after the names used to address a person.
For example: Sir, can I come in?
Image 1: An extract from the poem Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins
5. Differentiate between hyphens and dashes
Even seasoned writers do not have an idea when they are asked the basic difference between a hyphen and a dash. According to the basic punctuation rules, hyphens are used to denote complex adjectives. For cases when two or more words are collectively used as an adjective, a hyphen is used to join the two words. Also, remember that a hyphen does not have any spaces.
For example: A well-written paper or high-quality content.
However, there is an exception to this rule of punctuation. If the first word is an adverb ending in –ly, then the words must not be hyphenated.
For example: The experts working for us are highly qualified.
In the above sentence, you must not use a hyphen to add ‘highly’ and ‘qualified’ as the word highly is an adverb and not an adjective.
As explained earlier, a dash is used to indicate a separate idea or train of thought within the same sentence. It is a longer line than a hyphen. Unlike a hyphen, it is used with spaces before and after that segment of the sentence.
Ever since childhood, you must have asked hundreds of questions to the people around you. But, are you aware of the punctuation rule to add a question mark (?) in your write-up? What if we tell you that there’s more to it than what you can imagine? Keep reading to know:
Do you know how to use the question mark? What you really know isn’t enough.
See the two sentences given above. You will notice how one sentence ends with a question mark while another with the period. Some may confuse the second sentence for a question due to the presence of what and complete the sentence with a question mark.
However, you need to understand that every query does not end with a question mark.
Example 1: What do you know about the French revolution?
Example 2: She asked her what he knew about the French Revolution.
Case 1 is a direct question whereas case 2 is a question in the indirect speech. When a question is used in the indirect speech, it ends with a period.
There are certain sentences that may look like a question.
For example: I wonder how many people will attend the event.
If you lose the “I wonder” from the sentence, and the rest (how many people will attend the event) sounds like a question. But altogether, it is a reflective sentence and should not be confused for a query.
Exclamation marks are used to speak emphatically. It denotes surprise, awe and other such extreme emotions. With the “SMS lingo” being a thing these days, the millennials make the mistake of overusing the mark. You need to keep in mind that too many exclamation points are unnecessary.
For example: Our experts are the best! We offer affordable deals! Hire them today!
The above sentence is a classic example of the overuse of the exclamation mark.
The correct usage should be: Our experts are the best, and we offer affordable deals. Hire our services today!
Also, make sure that you do not follow the (!) mark with a full-stop or any other punctuation marks, similar to the case of a question mark.
Are you wondering if you should write ‘Ph.D.’ or ‘PhD’? Is it ‘its’ or ‘it’s’? Considering how vast and complicated the English punctuation rules can be, you might get confused. It is better that you consult a dictionary – hardcopy or online – if you are confused with the application. Moreover, the use of poetry punctuation rules can differ from that of an essay. Even between a heading and a title, the punctuation rules can vary. A dictionary should be the best guide in such cases. You can either use the old-school Oxford, Cambridge and Collins lexicons. Or go online with the Merriam Webster and the Urban dictionary.
If you want to provide an extra piece of information on the subject of the sentence, you can use a comma to add it in between without altering the original meaning of the sentence. Using commas in the sentence can help your reader understand how crucial the information is.
For example: The dramatist, who was also a singer, died in her sleep yesterday night.
In the above sentence, the reader understands that the added information about the dramatist being a singer isn’t that important.
However, take this sentence for instance – The novelist, Dan Brown, is the chief guest at the event.
In the above sentence, the name of the novelist is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Otherwise, there would be no specific indication to which of the multitude of novelists is being referred to.
You can see that in Image 2 the commas have been used in the clauses according to the importance of the information.
You can also use a dash (-) to do the same. A dash is usually used in place of a conjunction to make the sentences easier to understand.
For example: I love baked goodies – although they give me a sugar rush – because I have a sweet tooth.
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