Define Punctuation and Its Functions
If you think that punctuation is one of the circles of Grammar Hell, this article is here to save you from it. So, let’s start with a simple and helpful punctuation definition.
Punctuation is the use of small signs and marks in the middle and at the end of sentences.
Here they are, your old good friends (or enemies), the punctuation signs and marks: , ; : . ? ! () “”  – – …
If you think that punctuation has been invented to puzzle and torture poor students, you may want to learn now the true functions of punctuation:
- to show where one sentence ends and a new one starts;
- to separate different parts in the sentence;
- to prevent misreading (E.g. Compare: “A woman, without her man, is nothing.” and
“A woman: without her, man is nothing.” Or: “Let’s eat grandma!” and “Let’s eat, grandma!” In the latter case, proper punctuation might actually save a life…)
As you can see, punctuation marks help you more clearly express your ideas. Just as traffic rules and road signs are crucial for preventing accidents, punctuation is absolutely necessary for preventing chaos in your papers.
Define Punctuation to Use It Appropriately
Now that you already understand the punctuation meaning and its value, you may want to know how to use it in a proper way. Here are the main rules and clear examples illustrating them:
|Punctuation Mark||When Is It Used?||Example|
|Coma (,)||to separate 2 or more words in a series;||I met Jane, Susie and John yesterday.|
|to separate an introductory phrase;||Luckily, I already know punctuation rules.|
|to separate clauses within one sentence;||You should use punctuation marks, so that readers easily understand your ideas.|
|to separate nonessential elements, which can be omitted;||Dave, Helen’s husband, speaks Chinese.|
|Semi-colon (;)||to separate different parts of one sentence, which are not closely linked;||The weather was terrible; everyone in the room kept calm.|
|Colon (:)||to introduce a list;||Karl ate a substantial dinner: soup, cereal, salad, sandwich, coffee, milk and cheese.|
|Dash (–)||to emphasize what goes after it;||To some of my peers, my lifestyle seems strange – even weird.|
|Period or full stop (.)||to end a declarative sentence;||Second-hand smoking is dangerous.|
|Question mark (?)||to end an interrogative sentence;||Would you like to go to Paris?|
|Exclamation mark (!)||to end an emotionally-colored request or declarative sentence.||Keep the distance!|
Beware of Common Pitfalls
Congratulations, you already know everything you need to not only define punctuation, but also use it appropriately and make your papers shine. However, we offer you even more. Check out the following punctuation pitfalls and avoid them in your papers:
- Run-on sentences. This happens when you are not using a coma and/or conjunction between different clauses of one sentence. E.g. Wrong: We went to the cinema Tom had not bought tickets. Correct: We went to the cinema, even though Tom had not bought tickets.
- Coma splices. This means that you did not use comas where they were absolutely necessary. E.g. Wrong: If it rains we will stay at home. Correct: If it rains, we will stay at home.
- Use of wrong punctuation marks (in wrong places). Some students tend to put commas, dashes and so on, where no punctuation marks are needed, or where another mark would fit better. E.g. Wrong: I was going, to put an end to my trouble. Correct: I was going to put an end to my trouble.
So, now you already clearly understand the punctuation definition and know how to use punctuation in a sentence. Welcome to the club of grammar superstars!