Let’s Punctuate – part-1
“Ladies, if you want to know the way to my heart… good spelling and good grammar, good punctuation, capitalize only where you are supposed to capitalize, it’s done.”
And I must say, the same goes for men, too. For ladies, men with good grammar and punctuation skills check all the boxes on the list. Punctuation marks are not just fancy symbols to add to your sentences. They are “necessities”. Your work would be naked and your soul barren without them. And as John Lennard said in his book, The Poetry Handbook, “Punctuation is to words as cartilage is to the bone, permitting articulation and bearing stress.”
They are the indicators that help the writer to take short pauses, long pauses, tell the readers if they are questioning something, show emotion, or just pass on information. Coming from the Greek word, “Punctus”, which means “point”, punctuation marks give meaning to the sentence. Without proper punctuation inserts, the meaning of your sentence would completely be changed. And the most quoted example for the same is:
Let’s eat Grandma.
Let’s eat, Grandma.
One comma can save grandma from being eaten by her grandkid!
According to Britannica, “Punctuation is the use of spacing, conventional signs, and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading, both silently and aloud, of handwritten and printed texts.” There are a total of 14 types of punctuation marks, which attends to a different meaning of the sentence.
So now let’s start with the seven most important punctuation marks, and make your sentence better.
As per the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, a full stop or a period is “used at the end of a sentence to emphasize that there is nothing more to say about a subject.” In simpler words, it is used to END the sentence. When you have nothing more to say, just use a full stop. In other words, it is used to stop your train of thoughts when you feel they are completed. Please keep in mind, the next sentence that you use always starts with a capital letter.
- It is raining outside.
- The cat has brown fur with white patches.
- The clown was making everyone laugh.
- The class has an equal ratio of girls and boys.
The comma is one the most used punctuation marks, and also the most wrongly used one! The comma is used for multiple purposes — to separate different clauses or phrases in the sentence, to list different items together in a sentence, to give short pauses in dialogues, or when the writer wants to put emphasis. There is one more type of comma, the Oxford Comma, which is the final comma when you mention items in the list. However, the Oxford comma is not adhered to by The Associated Press Stylebook, the style guide that American news organizations generally follow. It is used when you follow British-style English.
- Five years ago, I never thought I would be dancing.
- Tara, the girl with brown eyes, is my new friend.
- Matthew, Rachel, Tim and Ron are going to a party.
- Matthew, Rachel, Tim, and Ron are going to a party. (here the last comma after Tim is Oxford Comma)
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a colon as “a punctuation mark used chiefly to direct attention to matter”. In other words, it is used to introduce the list of things. It is also used in denoting numeric expressions of time, hour, and seconds, in assessing ratios, and in bibliographical references.
- The meeting will start at 10:30:00 on Monday.
- The ratio of milk to water is 1:3.
- I need the following things from you: paper, scissors, tape, and pens.
- These are the selected students: Roy, Keshav, Riya, and Sheena.
A semicolon is a period atop a comma which indicates that they are used when the writer wants the pause to be slightly longer than a comma but shorter than a full stop. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “the symbol ; is used in writing between two parts of a sentence, usually when each of the two parts could form grammatical sentences on their own. A semicolon can also separate the things in a list.”
- My sister likes mangoes; my brother likes grapes.
- Bring an umbrella; however, the forecast shows a sunny day tomorrow.
- Ron, the mathematics teacher; Eva, the english teacher; Shaun, the physics teacher will be present at the meeting.
- I am here; you are there.
As the name defines, it is used when you want to ask a question. It is used at the end of the sentence. If the sentence is a statement, you use a period/full stop (.); if the sentence is a question you use (?). In either case, symbols are used at the end of the sentence and the first word of the next sentence would be in the capital.
- Did you read Jane Austen’s Emma?
- How was your Sunday?
- Will you go to the market with me?
- Did you bring your swimming costume?
These were the few most used but wrongly placed punctuation marks for you to learn and revise. The next two blogs will teach you about more punctuation marks. So watch this space to learn and grow more!