Find Your Writing Niche: Punctuation

Paso Robles, CA

Paso Robles, CA

I am pleased to welcome guest blogger Nikolas Baron to Finding Your Writing Niche. He is a member of Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco and tackles a topic I haven’t included in this blog: Punctuations. About himself he writes that he “discovered his love for the written word in elementary school where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.” He explains punctuation so people can understand it.

Whether you are a professional writer or perhaps a casual blogger, if you write, understanding proper usage of punctuation is paramount to your success. Punctuation marks are the very thing that makes it clear exactly what we, as writers, are trying to say, or rather, how we are trying to say it.

It has become apparent to me that many writers lack some basic knowledge when it comes to punctuation. I work with a website called Grammarly, wherein part of my job is studying people’s everyday writing habits. Based on my experience, I have decided to string together this list of useful tips to raise your punctuation usage to another level.

This guide does not serve as a complete reference to all things punctuation. Rather, it is merely a reference for some common errors many commit daily. Enjoy!

The Guide

The Period–this may lead some readers out there to undoubtedly roll their eyes, however just bear with me.

Multiple Punctuation–the rule here is that sentences only require one form of punctuation when terminating. When a sentence ends with a question or exclamation, there is no period. This is also true for sentences ending with an abbreviation, like Inc.

Examples: I hated the show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Victoria is the best candidate to run Marsh Inc.

Periods and Quotation Marks–if a sentence ends with quoted material, punctuation is placed inside the quotation.

Example: Billy Ray always liked to shout, “All hail the king.”

The Exclamation Point–I have seen this far too many times to not address it.

Ending a Sentence–the exclamation point is more than enough punctuation to end a sentence. It should never be followed with a period or a question mark. Some writers use both exclamation and question marks to express an exclamatory question; however, this is very incorrect. Please stop doing it.

Example: How on earth could you do that!

The Semicolon–Don’t be afraid, the semicolon is easy to use!

Between Independent Clauses–the semicolon is used to link two independent clauses when the use of a coordinating conjunction is omitted. Since each independent clause is a complete sentence, a period could be used; however, the semicolon is used to emphasize the connection between each clause.

Example: Morning staff at the hospital was allowed a thirty-minute lunch break; night staff was only allowed a 15-minute meal break.

The Ellipses–Most useful when working with quoted material; however, many of you know the ellipses as a tool to represent hesitation. In informal writing, it seems as though the ellipses has replaced most punctuation marks and has been employed to represent hesitation, to trailing-off thought, to shock. However versatile it may seem, keep in mind that too much of anything is a bad thing.

Example: Good- She couldn’t have.. I mean, did she really kill him?

Bad- I can’t… you don’t… I mean… well, I just… NOOOOOO!

Things to Remember

Again, this is not a complete guide, but should serve instead as a reference. Keep an eye out for more as I plan to develop this into a series, progressively digging deeper into the world of punctuation.

If you can’t wait that long to read about proper punctuation usage, have you ever considered learning about it on your own? Fortunately, accomplishing such a goal is easier than ever thanks to the internet. There are excellent reference sites like Purdue’s OWL, and sites that offer free grammar checks, like Grammarly. Whatever the case, make your writing as complete as possible and always be open to learning new things.

You can contact Nick at nbaron@grammarly.com

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Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I’ve been a professional freelance writer for several years and specialize in writing feature stories. I have more than a 1,000 bylines to my credit and have written on countless topics from autism to zoology. My columns on fashion and the Internet appeared in a Chicago area newspaper in the 90s. “Brunswick Buzz,” the column in The Sun News, the Myrtle Beach, S.C. daily, ran for seven years then “Events on the North Strand” took over in October 2013, also in The Sun News.

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