Punctuation Is a Sign of Respect

WRITTEN June 18, 2019 Author: Rich Atkins

Punctuation provides structure and organization to written language.

Has your smartphone gotten you into bad habits where it comes to punctuation?

If the answer is yes, then your reader can think one of two things:

  • The writer doesn’t know any better, and this is the best s/he could do; 
  • The writer does know better, and doesn’t care.

Effective communication skills require care and respect, just like punctuation. Show your audience that you care (and are smart) by punctuating correctly!

Here are some punctuation reminders that you may have forgotten or not known:

Periods (.)

  • indicate abbreviations – a.m., p.m., Mrs., Dr. (Exceptions: Ms, USA)
  • use to shorten sentences with too many commas. “We left the party early, we thought there were too many people packed into the house, and the music was too loud.”

Commas (,)

  • separate adjectives describing the same noun – She is a sincere, faithful friend. (Except when the adjectives can’t be rearranged: He wore a dark silk suit.)
  • prevent misreading – Before testing the boiler was dismantled. (Does that say, “Before testing the boiler…”? No, it’s supposed to be, “Before testing, the boiler was dismantled.”)
  • avoid confusion when speaking to someone.  “Let’s eat Grandma.” is markedly different than “Let’s eat, Grandma.”
  • clarifying a positive or negative answer.  “No one can exit over there.” has the opposite meaning to “No, one can exit over there.”

Apostrophes (’)

  • show possession – Andy’s office, Jessica’s computer
  • form contractions (letters are missing) – Did + not = didn’t; It + is = it’s; O’clock = literally, of the clock; Isn’t = is not
  • form plurals of letters and signs
    • Letters: Mississippi has four s’s and i’s.
    • Signs: How many +’s are in this email?

NOTE: Do not use apostrophes for:

Numbers – 1990s
Abbreviations – Ph.D.s, BAs

In today’s society, doing it faster and easier seems to win over everything else!  And it is definitely easier and faster to send a text or an email without punctuation and even letters or full words.  

We may not always realize it, but we tend to write as if we are speaking.  Of course there is no need to think of punctuation when it is actual spoken word! When speaking, however, you are able to use your breath, pauses, and vocal volume to highlight your meaning. There is a loss of clarity when changing from spoken to written word especially when there is no thought to use correct punctuation.  Don’t forget a main purpose of punctuation is being clearly understood.

What we teach in our business writing training classes is that we may not realize how important punctuation can be.  We forget that punctuation can change the meaning of sentences if placed in different positions within the sentence.

Don’t let your message be lost or misunderstood because you want to save a few seconds.  Have the respect for your audience to take the time to correctly write and present your thoughts.

This information is from our Business Writing training classes. If you’re looking for ways to improve through other communication skills training classes, register for one of the public classes we offer. Click for more information.

Image by ELLE RITTER from Pixabay 

Other Resources:

Penguin Guide to Punctuation

Punctuation is Important

Punctuation: from English Grammar Today

8 Essential Rules for Punctuating Dialog

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