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Punctuation Rules

Punctuation is a very important aspect of writing; good writing presupposes correct punctuation. Incorrect punctuation is the sign of weak writing, or carelessness. But this sort of thing is eminently avoidable, because punctuation is quite simple to master. Here are some basic rules to keep in mind:

  1. Every sentence must end with a full stop.
  2. Proper nouns (names of people, places, brands, etc, i.e. unique instances of a class) must always be capitalised.
  3. When you use opening quotation marks, do not forget to use closing quotation marks at the end of the quoted word or phrase.
  4. Quotation marks are when quoting or sometimes to convey irony, not for emphasis; emphasis is conveyed by emboldening or italicisation, followed by an exclamation mark.
  5. Do not use an apostrophe when you are pluralising a word. The plural of toy is toys, not toy’s. Apostrophes are used to form contractions (it is = it’s) and indicate possession.
  6. The ellipsis, used to indicate variously the intentional omission of a section of text, an unfinished thought, and a trailing off into silence, consists of only 3 dots. It is pointless to add more dots to an ellipsis. This is excessive punctuation, which is in other words incorrect punctuation.
  7. As per the rules of British English, any punctuation mark that is not part of a quoted section of text must be placed outside the quotation marks. However, in the case of direct speech, punctuation marks must be enclosed within the quotation marks.
  8. Do not link independent clauses with commas. Independent clauses are groupings of words that can stand alone as sentences. For example, in He knew how to drive, that he didn’t do it very often was a matter more nerves, not inability both the parts before and after the comma are full sentences. In such cases, the comma is not the correct punctuation mark of connection. In needs to be replaced with a semi-colon (‘;’). The sentence becomes: He knew how to drive; that he didn’t do it very often was matter of nerves, not inability.
  9. Use a comma after the introductory element of a sentence. The introductory element is a word or a phrase that begins a sentence by providing background, or simply modifies it. For example, Honestly I don’t know how I managed to escape is wrong, because the word ‘honestly’ modifies the sentence. Hence, it should be Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to escape.