How to Use Punctuation Correctly

by Daniel in 20 Comments — Updated Reading Time: 2 minutes

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Using punctuation correctly is important regardless of your occupation. If you are a blogger that is even more important; most readers consider the quality of writing determinant for the success of a blog.

The wikiHow website has an comprehensive article titled “How to Use English Punctuation Correctly” outlining the basics of punctuation usage. Below you will find a summary of the article.

1. The colon (:) is used to introduce lists and it appears after nouns.

Example: The Easter basket contained three things: an egg, a chocolate rabbit, and a candy.

Incorrect example: The Easter basket contained: an egg, a chocolate rabbit, and a candy.

2. The semicolon (;) is used to separate two related but independent clauses.

Example: People continue to worry about the future; our failure to conserve resources has put the world at risk.

3. The hyphen (-) is used when adding a prefix to words, when creating compound words or when writing numbers as words.

Example: Laura is his ex-girlfriend.

Example: There are fifty-two playing cards in a deck.

4. The dash (–) is used to make a brief interruption on a sentence, an additional statement or a dramatic qualification.

Example: An introductory clause is a brief phrase that comes–yes, you guessed it–at the beginning of a sentence.

5. The parentheses (()) is used to clarify or to add a personal statement. Its usage is similar to the dash, but it denotes a stronger “side notion”.

Example: Steve Case (AOL’s former CEO) resigned from the Time-Warner board of directors in 2005.

6. The double quotation mark (“) is used to enclose direct quotations from a person or from another text. Notice that commas or periods go inside the quotation marks.

Example: “I can’t wait to see him perform!” John exclaimed.

7. The single quotation mark (‘) is used to indicate possession, to contract verbs and to denote a quotation within a quotation.

Example: Ali said, “Anna told me, ‘I wasn’t sure if you wanted to come!'”

8. The comma (,) is used to indicate a break or pause within a sentence, to denote a series or to separate adjectives.

Example: The powerful, resonating sound caught our attention.

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20 thoughts on “How to Use Punctuation Correctly”

  1. I’m not sure how close you should keep this “tutorial”. As soon as I find something disputable, I lose trust in something that is supposed to be an authority (or at least it pretends to be.

    About the colon the writer says: “Use only after a noun.” And then gives the following example:
    The professor has given me three options: to retake…

    Is he/she saying that I can/should not use a colon if the sentence was something like “The professor has given me three options to think about: to retake…”

    I’m not sure how much to trust this how-to, but I’ll try to find out.

  2. I would add that if you want to make sure you get your punctuation correct then be aware of your audience.

    If your audience is outside the US then many of the rules will differ; for example, in British English punctuation is not placed inside quotations as a rule but placed according to context.

  3. I just wanted to chime back in. While I am not happy with my grammar, that’s because I tend to be a bit hard on myself sometimes. My wife said my grammar is actually pretty good (so did Daniel).

    I have visited blogs where the grammar and punctuation were so bad, I just couldn’t read it. I think the occasional grammar mistake, and the occasional mispelling is ok.

    But doooing someething; like – thisss… just, make’s thing’s — to difficult too reed@!

  4. If one cannot reread their posts because they feel bored reading their own posts repeatedly, one thing to do is to take a long break and come back to read the post. After a while, you will probably read the post as if it was a bit new and not something that is still completely fresh on your mind. That will allow you to look at it and focus on the way the message is conveyed instead of on the idea.

    I know a few blogs where the bloggers have the most wonderful ideas, but they either write fast or somehow forget to edit things, and the punctuation and other grammar mistakes grab more attention than the idea of the post itself, unless the post itself was written to demonstrate mistakes in posts. 🙂

  5. Staska, I had already seen that research, and also find it interesting.

    The fact that people can understand what you write even if you don’t write it perfectly does not mean you should not aim for having a very clear and correct writing style, in my opinion.

    Sure I can understand when someone has a lot of typos and gramma mistakes on his blog, but I will perceive that blog more as a “personal gig” than as something professional like TechCrunch.

  6. I am pretty sure I made a grammar mistake on the last post I wrote on my blog. I should have been more clear in my comment.

    I was just kidding in my first comment, except that my mom was an English teacher. The only funny thing about that is she taught the guy who played Mater in the movie Cars (Larry the Cable Guy or Dan Whitney as we called him in school).

  7. Nice post, Daniel. Thanks for adding this. I actually didn’t know the different uses between a dash and a hyphen. But it makes sense that there would be different uses.

  8. George, looks like you made them to reinforce your point!

    When I read your blog I hardly notice grammar mistakes, nothing major I guess then.

  9. I, have very; poor grammar: sometimes I have my… wife fix it; but i PROBABLY should learn grammar better.

    My mom was an english Teacher growing up and I kind of rebelled against learning : proper grammar because of that.

    However, I now realize that I love’ writing? So, i should take the time to learn proper grammar It;s kind of funny timing: since my wife – and I were discussing this very thing last. night.

    Thanks – Daniel,

  10. Yeah, one thing that people tend to do is to use commans on the wrong places. They either overuse it or don’t use it at all :).

  11. It is very important especially if you’re running a business. When you’re a business owner, or on the staff and you have poor grammar, spelling or representation of yourself. You’re essentially saying your boss is an idiot for hiring an idiot and why should you even bother working or buying from him if he cant even hire someone with a basic understanding of the english language.

  12. Thats why I have my friend Amy edit my posts since no matter how many times I look at something I know what it is meant to say so I’ll mush it together and read what its suppose to say where she has an objective view.


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