Ten Very Common Punctuation Mistakes
By Lisa Brown
Having a good command of the language you are writing is always important.
Grammar and spelling mistakes are never accepted, especially if you can easily avoid them.
Not much attention is spent on punctuation check, even though the proper use is necessary. You could totally change the meaning of a sentence by the way you use your punctuation marks.
We list the top 10 common punctuation mistakes you should avoid and note how to correct punctuation errors.
1. No commas
Write your sentences as you speak. If your sentence is a mile long, it can be corrected by simply adding commas the same way you would when you speak. Let’s look at an example to make this easier.
I was at the beach yesterday but it was so full I left soon after arriving.
Now say the sentence out loud and see where you naturally take a breath. Use your commas where you take your breath. No one just speaks non-stop and our commas are the point where you take a break and complete your sentence.
2. Overload of commas
Just as important as it is to insert your commas correctly, it is also important to not insert ten commas in one sentence. Sometimes you just have to end a sentence and start a new one. Here is an example of how to make this mistake.
I was at the beach yesterday, but it was so full, I decided to go home, but before that, I popped in at the store, then I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in years, it was amazing.
You have to be able to look at that sentence and see that you have used too many commas. The sentence in our example can easily be broken into three sentences.
3. Improper usage of quotation marks
I see this one all the time and it can be tricky at times. Here is the rule with quotation marks we always hear.
The sentence-ending punctuation mark you use should always be outside of the quotation marks. The problem is, that rule does not always apply. It depends on your sentence. Here is an example.
“I want a burger”, she said, “but leave out the lettuce!”
See the quotation mark went after her sentence-ending punctuation mark. So the rule of only using the quotation mark before the sentence-ending punctuation mark does not always apply.
4. It’s and Its
Even though this mistake is made all the time, there is no reason to do so. As always, say your sentences out loud. This one is pretty easy to correct once you know what they stand for.
“It’s” simply means, it is or it has.
“Its” is used when referring to something or someone.
There you go, mystery solved with a simple rule. Then why are so many people still making this mistake? I think it’s just quick writing at times or perhaps they are reading these rules for the first time.
5. Exclamation points
I know sometimes people shout louder than other times but this is no reason to use more than one exclamation mark.
I won’t deny the fact that five exclamation points do add more drama but if you are trying to use it correctly, don’t overdo it.
You make me so upset sometimes!!!!!!!!!
We get it, you were not happy but you can send the same message with just one. Unless you are writing a personal letter to someone who just upset you, you may go ahead and use two. For professional writing, keep to the rules.
Even though emoticons are cute, they don’t necessarily form part of the English language register. Obviously, some very smart person created them and continued to come up with more, these are only appropriate in personal chats. Do not insert these into article writing or perhaps that college essay.
We had such a great time at the movies last night :)
Reserve this for a sentence to your best friend. They are not punctuation at all.
7. Sarcastic quotation marks
We have learned this bad habit of placing double quotation marks around words when we try and suggest that they are not true. Professional writing will not allow for this to add emphasis.
Using quotation marks for mere emphasis is not acceptable. We like to poke our fingers in the air when we speak and try to achieve this. It does not mean we can use it in our writing.
She acted so “reserved” last night.
If you want to say something else, just say it.
She was out of control last night.
You said what you wanted to say without making this unnecessary mistake.
8. Unnecessary apostrophes
Apostrophes are used when referring to an individual. Be it a person or an object. When you are referring to multiple parties, you do not need the apostrophe.
My parent’s love to visit over the holidays.
My brother’s girlfriend is coming over.
Just think, singular or plural and you should be able to easily avoid this mistake.
There are many words combined by an em dash but there are also words you should not. They are one of the most versatile punctuation marks. Use them for various reasons as long as you stay within the rules. You can also use a dash to show a range.
22 – 26
Another great use is to break a sentence.
My eating routine has improved – definitely for the better.
10. Question marks
Most of us think we know how to use a question mark correctly but there are also rules to this one. A question mark is only used when asking a direct question and not when referring to a question. Here is an example.
Will you take me to the shop?
I asked if you will take me to the shop?
Avoid using question marks with indirect questions and you are good to go.
So now you know how to avoid these common punctuation mistakes. There are many ways to let punctuation marks improve your writing if you follow the rules.
Do your research on each punctuation mark and improve your knowledge on how to use them correctly.
Further reading: How to use the Oxford comma.
Lisa Brown works as a content manager. She is specialized on writing useful articles for writers, students and people who want to improve their writing skills. Her hobby is reading, travelling and blogging. Lisa`s life motto is “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching”.