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Addressing common punctuation errors

From: Business Writing Fundamentals

Video: Addressing common punctuation errors

- [Voiceover] When we speak, we have tone and facial expressions. When we write, we have words on the page, and the punctuation marks. The exclamation point is used, of course, to indicate a surprise element, and the question mark means a question's being asked. Those are easy. But what about the pesky comma? The comma is the most used, and the most abused punctuation mark. I'm convinced that sometimes the only reason a comma is inserted is that "It looked like a good place," or "I breathed," or "I haven't used one for awhile." However, that comma can completely change the meaning of your message.

Addressing common punctuation errors

- [Voiceover] When we speak, we have tone and facial expressions. When we write, we have words on the page, and the punctuation marks. The exclamation point is used, of course, to indicate a surprise element, and the question mark means a question's being asked. Those are easy. But what about the pesky comma? The comma is the most used, and the most abused punctuation mark. I'm convinced that sometimes the only reason a comma is inserted is that "It looked like a good place," or "I breathed," or "I haven't used one for awhile." However, that comma can completely change the meaning of your message.

Look at this sentence, does it need a comma? Your correct answer should have been, "It depends." You can't know until you know the writer's intent. The sentence without the commas predicts the Blue team will win. Let's add commas. Now the Red team is predicted to win, complete opposite meaning.

Not using a comma correctly can also result in sentence fragments and in run-on sentences. Here are a couple of examples. That first group of words is a sentence fragment. The corrected version needs a comma. Look at this comma.

This is a run-on sentence. The corrected version is... Or, I have attended this organization's conference, semicolon, I look forward to its new location. The comma is not a strong enough mark to hold together two complete sentences. So a conjunction, and, but, or, for example, must be added, or the semicolon, which is stronger, can be used.

A couple other punctuation marks that may confuse are the semicolon and the colon. The semicolon is used to separate two complete sentences, as in the last example and in this example. The colon, on the other hand, always means something follows, such as a list, and is never used correctly after a verb or a preposition.

That is an incorrect use of the colon. This is also incorrect. In both examples, the colon should be deleted. The colon is used correctly in this sentence. The location of the apostrophe can also be confusing.

Look at these two sentences. When read aloud, both sound identical, but then when written have different meanings. In the first sentence, we have only one guest. Look at the word before the apostrophe: g-u-e-s-t. It is singular, so it's called singular possessive. But in the second example, the word before the apostrophe is plural: g-u-e-s-t-s.

So the word is plural possessive, meaning more than one guest. And then the quotation marks. Of course they're used to show that something is being directly quoted, but where should the comma, the period, the colon and the semicolon be placed in relationship to the quotation marks? This one's easy. The period and the comma are always placed inside the quote marks. The colon and semicolon are always placed outside the quote marks.

See the placement of the comma and period? Our manager said, quote: That semicolon connecting two complete thoughts, is placed outside the quote marks. The comma, the semicolon, the colon, and the apostrophe are punctuation marks that can be used correctly by remembering a few simple rules. Know the difference so that the punctuation helps you get your message to your reader.

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Business Writing Fundamentals

23 video lessons · 11715 viewers

Judy Steiner-Williams
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