Ten Common Punctuation Mistakes You Need to Avoid Making

Ten 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.


6. Emoticons

Even though emoticons are cute, they don’t necessarily form part of the English language register.

Obviously, some very smart people 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. Emoticons 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.

Incorrect use

My parent’s love to visit over the holidays.


Correct use

My brother’s girlfriend is coming over.

Just think, singular or plural and you should be able to easily avoid this mistake.


9. Dashes

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.

Correct use

Will you take me to the shop?

Incorrect use

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

Lisa Brown works as a content manager. She is specialized in 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”.


10 thoughts on “Ten Common Punctuation Mistakes You Need to Avoid Making

  • November 28, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Sorry, but the correct punctuation here is My parents’ home etc … parents is a plural noun and their home is a possessive. Trust me on this.

  • May 6, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Ironically, this article would have been served by an extra proof reading as some segments are poorly written.

    “Even though emoticons are cute, they don’t necessarily for part of the English language. ” Form part, maybe?

    The thing is that the above example, well as the other things I found in the text can happen to us all (and no doubt I will find tons of them in my own comment once it´s posted), but they are especially annoying in a text about the do´s and don´t´s in writing.

  • March 27, 2018 at 3:50 am

    Use “them” and not “it” when items are plural. “Grammar and spelling mistakes are never accepted, especially if you can easily avoid them.”

    Also, how do you tell someone who speaks in run-on sentences where to put a period? It’s something we hear all the time, even with professional broadcasters; people talk as if their sentence is an endless question. Terrible.

  • September 29, 2017 at 9:57 am

    You can have apostrophes with plurals, if the plural is possessive. Just make sure you put the apostrophe after the “s”.

    For example: “This is my parents’ house”. (i.e. I have two parents, and this house belongs to both of them). If you’d not included the apostrophe, this sentence wouldn’t make sense.

    Always check with a plural whether its just a plain plural, or whether it takes a possessive apostrophe.

  • September 29, 2017 at 7:55 am

    “An en dash is used to show a range, with NO spaces. If an en dash isn’t available, I prefer a hyphen to an em dash.”
    Correct. The writer of this article has lumped dashes in as one thing, but there are distinct uses for the en dash, the em dash and the hyphen. You use an em dash for a break in a sentence.

  • August 8, 2017 at 3:56 am

    In the U.S., commas and periods go inside quotation marks. A question mark or exclamation point go inside quotation marks IF it’s part of the quote.

    An en dash is used to show a range, with NO spaces. If an en dash isn’t available, I prefer a hyphen to an em dash.

    Was this article written as an April 4 joke?

  • February 2, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Commas have more rules than just shoving one in where ever you think a pause should be. Read the Penguin Guide to Punctuation. A comma can change the whole meaning of a sentence.

  • February 2, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    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.
    Incorrect use

    My parent’s love to visit over the holidays.
    (That is not a logical illustration; it is a plural not a possessive)
    A logical illustration would be
    My parent’s home was always filled with love during the holidays. OR
    My parents home was always filled with love during the holidays.

    Otherwise, I found this a useful — and unusually clearly written — article….jt

    • September 28, 2018 at 4:14 am

      It would be better to say “My mom’s house” or My dad’s house” than “My parent’s house.” We usually don’t refer to our parents in the singular, which the phrase “My parent’s house” indicates. If you are talking about BOTH parents, it would be correct to write, “My parents’ house.”


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