We all are cognizant that the lack of punctuation or incorrect punctuation could change the meaning of the sentence entirely. But why do we use them? Wouldn’t English be easier without the use of punctuation marks?
The answer is yes, and no, both! Yes, the language will be much easier, because there wouldn’t be this pressure of knowing its uses. But we also say ‘no’ as the sentence will fail to express the exact intended meaning. Imagine a sentence without a full stop- ‘Jacob woke up late today So he could not make it to college on time He really needs to invest in an alarm’– Does the sentence make sense or is it a long, dull sentence?
Just like we need words to stitch a sentence, similarly, we need punctuation to add clarity to those sentences. An ill-punctuated sentence is much like a sandwich without mayo; it lacks the essence. Plus, punctuation marks express if the sentence requires a pause, is a question or a statement.
Even though we know what punctuation is, its apt use can be perplexing. Here’s your guide to English punctuations.
Punctuation 1: Full stop/ Period (.)
A full stop is useful to show that it is the end of that sentence. You might want to add more information, but you need to break sentences down to augment readability. For example, Jacob woke up pretty late today. Everything you add after this sentence is supporting information to the above.
You can also use a full stop after abbreviations such as Mr., Mrs., Dr., Jr., Sept., No., etc.
Punctuation 2: Question Mark (?)
A question mark is one pronunciation where mistakes are less likely. Every question needs to an with a question mark. There is nothing more to it. For example, Which route should we take to reach Vegas by night?
Punctuation 3: Comma (,)
Even several native speakers make unintentional errors when it comes to using this punctuation- the comma. One of the most common uses of a comma is to separate words in a list. For example, Bring me some milk, eggs, bread, and cheese from the store.
Another place where you can use a comma is to denote a pause between a sentence. One of the fundamental errors that one makes is to write a sentence about how they imagine it being said vocally. Don’t do that! Here’s an example, If not anything else, could you at least bring me warm soup from the cafe nearby?
See how the sentence takes a pause, and then read it in that manner. A comma is beneficial to break complex sentences, and also when you want to use the direct speed or direct a sentence towards someone. For example, We went to the movies, and then we had some coffee after that and Thank you for your help, Martin.
Pretty easy now, right?
Punctuation 4: Exclamation Mark (!)
Use an exclamation mark to express a shock, surprise or a scream. Such as, This is the best day I have ever had in my life! This sentence demonstrates excitement, and therefore, is punctuated with an exclamation mark at the end.
You can also insert this in the middle of sentences, like, Oh my God! Are we really going to Europe?
Punctuation 5: Semi-Colon (;)
A semi-colon comes in handy when you want to join two sentences that support one another. Although this is sometimes tricky. Our suggestion is to break the sentences in two if you find it confusing. For example, Christina was really hurt; she knew it was the end of her relationship. As you can see, the two sentences have been weaved into one sentences, rather than two long ones.
Punctuation 6: Colon (:)
We don’t use a colon as much in our day to day writings, but you may find it many formal and informal write-ups. Why do people use it? This punctuation mark also depicts a pause, but in a different manner. Firstly, we can use a colon before we begin a list. For example, You have to bring the following items with you to attend this trek: torchlight, comfortable shoes, a hat/cap, a bottle of water, and a raincoat.
If you look at the sub-headings in this article, you will notice that you can use a colon after a heading or title as well.
Punctuation 7: Hyphen (-)
A hyphen is used when one wants to link two words. For example, non-verbal, sub-part, four-years-old, part-time, etc. These words are complete independently but need a hyphen to connect with other complete words.
Punctuation 8: Brackets ( )
Always used as a pair, brackets supplement the sentence with a little extra. That said, a sentence can do without a bracket as it does not disrupt the flow of the line. For example, You must read the condition (or conditions) put forth by the company to make an informed decision.
Punctuation 9: Quotation Marks ” “
Whenever you want to quote lines from somebody else’s speech, or use the direct speech, use quotation marks. This is how, David said, “This is our only alternative. We have to try or give up.”
Punctuation 10: Apostrophe ‘ ‘
The single quote marks, however, have a different use. For starters, you can use an apostrophe to show possession. For example, This is Anne’s book. Don’t touch it without her permission. The sentence clears how the book belongs to Anne.
Some abbreviations also make use of this punctuation mark to replace a letter. For example, instead of saying- it is not, you can say it isn’t.
Use the punctuation marks appropriately for a smoother read and ace the English language in every aspect!
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