Punctuation saves lives

If you don’t believe that punctuation saves lives, take a look at these two sentences containing identical words but different punctuation:

Let’s eat Grandma!

Let’s eat, Grandma!

While this is a funny illustration, using the wrong punctuation can change the meaning of sentences and can make the writer look bad.

Here are the most common punctuation mistakes we come across:

Punctuation inside vs. outside quote marks–In the United States, punctuation almost always should be placed inside quote marks at the end of a quote. Question marks and exclamation points always appear inside quote marks, but colons and semi colons appear outside the quote marks.

For example:

  • I shouted, “Howdy, Glenn!”
  • When asked if she was sad, she quietly responded, “No.”
  • There are two main meanings of the word “trifecta”: the successful prediction of the first, second and third place finishers in a horse race; and three things grouped together.

Apostrophes on dates–When indicating a decade or era, no apostrophe is required. For example, the 1980s. However, if the decade is shortened, an apostrophe is needed before the number. For example, the ‘80s.

Apostrophes with words ending in “s”–The apostrophe is used to show ownership (the girl’s hairbrush), but many people become confused when showing ownership of plural nouns or nouns that already end in “s.” For singular nouns that end in “s,” use the same rule (the glass’s reflection). For plural nouns, just add the apostrophe (the students’ books).

Serial commas–When separating parts of a list, leave the final comma off (The flag is red, white and blue). However, include the comma if the sentence would be confusing with out it, such as in a series of phrases.

What misuse of punctuation drives you nuts?

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