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What Is Punctuation and How Can It Save Your Life?

Did you know that punctuation could save lives? Compare the two following sentences:

  • Let’s eat grandma!
  • Let’s eat, grandma!

As you can see, a coma in the second sentence saves grandmother’s life. Even though this is, of course, only a joke, punctuation truly saves if not your life, then at least your excellent grades. Let’s check this punctuation definition and the main punctuation rules for writing stellar papers and avoiding misunderstandings.

What Is Punctuation and Who Needs It?

Punctuation is the placing of all those marks you use to indicate the end of a sentence and separate the different parts of one sentence. Punctuation symbols (or marks) are valuable, because they:

  • help you avoid a mess inside your papers;
  • divide a text into sentences;
  • divide a sentence into clauses;
  • show the relations between clauses and clarify the meaning of asentence;
  • give readers an opportunity to catch their breath, better understand what they have read and prepare for the next portion of text.

Let’s be optimistic and see punctuation marks as helpful road signs on your way, not potholes you can stumble on. Even though in modern life, especially in online texting, people sometimes neglect punctuation, a clear understanding of punctuation definition is extremely important to communicate effectively with others.

Use proper punctuation to save lives and achieve proper communication!

What Is Punctuation and How to Polish It?

So, now you already understand the meaning of punctuation and its potential value. It is high time to learn how to use punctuation. Let’s discuss the meaning and place of every single punctuation mark:

  1. Period (.) – shows where a sentence ends. E.g. The weather is hot today. The sun is shining brightly.
  2. Comma (,) – divides a sentence into parts:
    • separates homogeneous parts that make up lists: The weather is hot, sunny and cloudless today.
    • separates the independent clauses in compound sentences; a comma is followed by any of the following coordinating conjunctions – For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So (you can use the acronym FANBOYS to learn them). The clauses in compound sentences are equals. E.g. She was happy, and she was constantly smiling.
    • separates the dependent and independent clauses in complex sentences. The dependent clause is introduced by one of the following coordinating conjunctions: after, although, as, because, since, though, unless, until, whenever, while, if and others. E.g. While I was waiting at the station, I realized that the train was late.
    • separates a direct address. E.g. Let’s eat, grandma!
    • introduces relatively unimportant information, which can be omitted. E.g. Sam, having finished his exams, went to Florida. (Dashes can be used instead of commas in this case.)
  3. Semicolon (;) – used to separate two sentences, which are relatively independent, but still too close in meaning to be separate sentences. No conjunctions are used. E.g. I had a terrible day; my efforts to write a good essay were not rewarded.
  4. Colon (:) introduces a list or explanation. E.g. There is only one reason why she could refuse going to the theater: she was ill.
  5. Dash – serves nearly the same role as a colon, but adds a longer pause and more emphasis to the information that follows. E.g. The representatives from different countries were present at the conference – particularly French, Spanish and Norwegian representatives.
  6. (?) – used at the end of an interrogative sentence. E.g. Have you ever been to New York?
  7. An exclamation mark (!) – used at the end of an emotionally-colored sentence. E.g. You simply can’t miss this opportunity!

So, now you definitely know the answer to the disturbing question “What is punctuation?” Do not hesitate to revisit this page whenever you need some guidance in using or revising punctuation in your papers. Becoming an ace in punctuation use is easy. Simply give it a try!

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