September 24 2009

Four simple punctuation rules

by Barbie in Grammar

In honor of National Punctuation Day (September 24), let’s take a look at four easy punctuation rules that will instantly improve your writing.

1) Commas between independent clauses.

Independent clauses can stand alone as complete sentences. If you have two independent clauses in a sentence, joined by a conjunction, include a comma before the conjunction.

2) Misplaced apostrophes.

Apostrophes are generally used for two purposes: to show possession or to replace omitted words (in the case of contractions). Do not use apostrophes to pluralize a noun.

3) Comma splices.

As mentioned in our first rule, commas are included when two independent clauses are linked by a conjunction. However, if two independent clauses exist in a sentence without a conjunction, use a semicolon to separate the clauses. Using a comma in place of a semicolon creates the dreaded comma splice.

4) Hyphens versus dashes.

A hyphen is used to make a compound word (e.g., the well-behaved child). Dashes come in two forms, an en dash and an em dash. En dashes are usually used to join two numbers. Em dashes indicate a pause or shift in thought. If your word-processing software does not include en and em dashes, use a double hyphen instead.