Put Accurate Punctuation

Put accurate punctuation at the heart of your writing. Punctuation shouldn’t cause as much fear as it does. Only about a dozen marks need to be mastered and the guidelines are fairly simple. A good command of punctuation helps you to say more, say it more interestingly and be understood at first reading. Listed below are the most common uses of the major punctuation marks.

(1) Full stop – the main use of a full stop (or, in the US, period) is to show where a sentence ends.

(2) Comma – single commas act as separators between parts of a sentence:

  • Although suitable protective equipment was available, most of the operatives were not wearing it
A pair of commas cordons off information that is an aside, explanation, or addition.
  • Holmes, having searched for further clues, left by the back door.

(3) Colon – colons have three main purposes:

  • To introduce a vertical list or a running-text list, for example:She has several positive characteristics: charm, dignity, and stickability.

  • To act as a ‘why-because’ marker which leads the reader from one idea to its consequence, for example:There’s one big problem with tennis on radio: you can’t see it.

  • To separate two sharply contrasting and parallel statements, for example:During Wimbledon, television is like someone with a reserved ticket: radio is for the enthusiast who has queued all night to get in.

(4) Semicolon – to use semicolons safely you need to satisfy two criteria:

  • The statements separated by the semicolons could stand alone as separate sentences.

  • The topics mentioned in the two statements are closely related. For example:The large oak frame houses the striking train of gears; these parts have been painted black and are the early parts of the clock.

Semicolons can often seem less curt than a full stop and can also be used to separate the items in a list.

Related Links:
Keep Sentences Short.
Use words your readers are likely to understand.
Use only as many words as you really need.
Prefer the active voice.
Use the clearest, liveliest verb to express your thoughts.
Use Vertical Lists to make complex materil understandable.
Keep Electronic Text Communication simple.
Put your points positively when you can.
Reduce cross-references to the minimum.
Try to avoid sexist usage.
Avoidable English Errors are so many.
Avoid fusty first sentences and formula finishes.
Put accurate punctuation at the heart of your writing.
Avoid being enslaved by seven writing myths.
Plan Before You Write.
Organize your material in a simple way.
Consider different ways of setting out your information.
Devote special effort to producing lucid instructions.
Use clear layout to present your plain words.

Plain English Index

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