5 Common Punctuation Mistakes & their Easy Fixes

The punctuation mark comma

Image via Wikipedia

While more subtle than misspellings and grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes also hurt your credibility. Make sure to proofread carefully and look out for these common errors:

1. Punctuation Outside Quotes: In American English, punctuation should always be placed within quotation marks, even if it’s not part of the quotation itself.

Wrong: Jim was excited to attend the new workshop, “Social Media Strategies for HR”.

Right: Jim was excited to attend the new workshop, “Social Media Strategies for HR.”

2. Comma Splice: When a comma separates two independent clauses, they must be joined by a conjunction. Without a conjunction, it becomes a comma splice.

Wrong: Their video production package costs $8,000, we decided to hire them.

Right: Their video production package costs $8,000, and we decided to hire them.

Right: Their video production package costs $8,000. We decided to hire them.

3. Missing Comma after Introductory Elements: Introductory elements of a sentence need a comma afterwards.

Wrong: Before attending the meeting Sue proofread her presentation.

Right: Before attending the meeting, Sue proofread her presentation.

4. Misplaced Apostrophes: This mistake is especially common in internet and online writing. Use apostrophes for possessives and conjunctions where appropriate.

Wrong: Carol’s notes summarize you’re presentation.

Right: Carol’s notes summarize your presentation.

5. Incorrect use of Semicolons: Semicolons are frequently used incorrectly. They connect two independent clauses that could be distinct, separate sentences.

Wrong: The budget is tight; but we will make every effort to fund employee health initiatives.

Right: The budget is tight, but we will make every effort to fund employee health initatives.

Right: Employee health initiatives are vital; we will allocate important resources for these efforts.

Do you find any punctuation mistakes frequently in your writing? What errors drive you crazy?

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “5 Common Punctuation Mistakes & their Easy Fixes

  1. The exception to example #1 is question marks and exclamation points, which are placed logically. Personally, I’m doing my part to change conventional usage: I always place commas and periods logically. Though I know it’s against the grammar rules of American English, I’ve made this my personal crusade. The U.K.’s punctuation/quotation usage almost makes up for their omittance of the serial comma. Almost.

    I’ve got a non-punctuational (non-punctual?) grammar question for you. Should “me” or “I” be used in the following cases:

    Three of us will be attending: Frank, Lou, and (I / me). (I can’t decide if the people are sentence subjects or preposition objects. Any change if the series is an appositive between “us” and “will”? Also: em-dash or colon?)

    Three will be attending: Frank, Lou, and (I / me). (I assume “I” here.)

    There will be three of us attending: Frank, Lou, and (I / me). (I assume “me” here.)

    • Thanks, Pomalls! Sometimes I’m surprised when people, who aren’t necessarily writers, have so much fun with punctuation and also have such strong opinions (like with the serial comma). I guess this shouldn’t surprise me, since punctuation is so vital to our individual writing style and how others perceive our ideas.

      Your “me” vs. “I” question is a very common one — and somewhat difficult to explain. “Me” is an object pronoun, while “I” is a subject pronoun that should only be used when “Frank, Lou, and I” is the sentence’s subject. In both of your examples, I’d use “me” because this pronoun is the object of the sentence and the unmentioned meeting that you’re attending is the subject. If you wrote, “Frank, Lou, and I will be attending,” you would use “I” because the three people are the sentence’s subject.

      For your examples, either an em-dash or colon is appropriate. Em-dashes can replace commas, semicolons, colons or parentheses. Plus, they add emphasis and signal an abrupt change of thought in your writing. So, either one works!

  2. Pingback: Em & En Dashes | Better Writing in Business

  3. Pingback: 4 Ways to Avoid Confusion with Commas | Better Writing in Business

  4. Pingback: Subject Verb Agreement | Better Writing in Business

  5. Pingback: Subject Verb Agreement | Better Writing in Business

Share Your Thoghts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s