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Brush up on your Punctuation


In so many modern publications there are multiple grammar errors, even in newspapers, magazines and bestselling novels. In a generation of writers starting to slack on the basic tools of writing, should we as writers be brushing up on our grammar and punctuation skills and changing that while improving our writing along the way?

Let’s go back to the basics.

First we’ll start with Semi-Colons, in modern writing, they are not often needed, probably because we tend to have a lot more dialogue in modern times and use shorter sentences more often in fiction to create an effect; even when they are used they could probably be replaced with a comma or a conjunction. If you use them properly they can give a nice flow to your writing (You must not use them before a conjunction, you must get rid of one or the other; however, you can use semi-colons with conjunctive adverbs. You should also use a comma instead if it is between an independent clause and a dependent clause).

Apostrophe’s and comma’s seem to be the most misused punctuation marks. Apostrophe’s have lots of uses, including showing who owns something, changing pronouns to verbs and making plurals, commas are great for making sentences flow and not sound child-like. Both apostrophe’s and comma’s have the same effect on a sentence when we read aloud. The comma shouldn’t be used when we are separating independent clauses instead you should use a period or conjunction. Using punctuation to break up sentences can break the thought up and make it easier for the reader to understand.

Another common mistake is putting the punctuation on the inside of quotation marks that belongs on the outside, punctuation not related to the quotation is only inside the quotation marks if you are writing American English; in British English, you should always put punctuation outside the quotation marks. Lastly a reminder on how to form possessives if the word ends in ‘s’ – words such as Thomas should be written as ‘Thomas's, not Thomas’.

Keep it in mind next time your editing.

Written by Zoe Boundy


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