Understanding Proper Punctuation


Proper English punctuation is an essential skill that everyone, no matter what their background, field of study or future job might be, needs. Nowadays, everyone has computer software that checks their grammar, spelling and punctuation which means that many individuals are forgetting the basics of proper punctuation. Whether you need to write a great paper for your English class or you have to put together a professional looking proposal for your boss, there are some basic rules to follow that will help you with the proper usage of punctuation.

The first rule is you must end all of your sentences with a period (.), Question mark (?) Or an exclamation point (!). The period is used to bring the sentence to a full stop and mark the end of a statement. It is the most commonly used punctuation mark. Question marks, as you may have guessed, are used to end a question, interrogatory remark or inquiry. And finally, the exclamation point is used to give a sentence emphasis or suggest exclusion.

The semicolon (;) has several different uses. You can use it to separate two related but independent clauses or separate a complex series of items. A colon (:) also has a multiple uses although the most common one is to introduce a list.

The second rule is to know and understand the difference between a hyphen (-) and a dash (-). The hyphen is used when you are adding a prefix to some words to make it easier to read (ex-girlfriend). You can also use it when you are creating compound words from separate words (up-to-date) or when you are writing numbers out as words (thirty-seven). The dash should be used if you want to make a brief interruption within a statement, a sudden change of thought, an added comment or a striking qualification.

You also need to know the different uses for the apostrophe (') and quotation marks ("). Quotation marks are used to enclose a direct quote either made by a person or taken from a piece of literature. "s" to indicate possession as well as to combine two words to make a contraction. An example of a contraction is when you turn can not into can not. An apostrophe can also be used to mark a quotation within a quotation.

To indicate a pause or a break within a sentence, you need to use a comma (,). The comma is the second most common used punctuation mark. A comma is used when you pause in a sentence to add more information (The young woman, who recently lost her mother to cancer, ran the marathon with purpose.). The comma is also used to denote a series or a set of three or more items within a sentence (The man bought berries, yogurt, and peaches.). You can also use a comma when referring to city and state or to separate an introductory phrase.

Another rule that you need to know when using proper punctuation is what the difference between parentheses (), bracket [], and braces {} is. Parentheses are used to clarify, place as an afterthought or add a personal thought. Brackets are used to show an editor's note in a piece of writing and braces are used primarily to denote a numeric set in mathematics.

The last bit of punctuation that you need to know how to use is the slash (/). This is used to separate "and" and "or", to denote a line break in lyrics and poetry or to replace the word "and" to join two nouns.

With a little studying, you'll soon have the hang of all these basic punctuation marks. By following these simple rules of punctuation, you are sure to write professional and properly written documents .