Although spelling mistakes are one of the most common types of grammar errors, punctuation mistakes aren’t far behind. Especially when it comes to blogging, a more casual tone is often viewed as appropriate. However, perhaps for the very same reason, that can make it a little easier for punctuation mark mistakes to slip through the cracks. Luckily for you, we’re tackling apostrophes, commas, and more in our latest Grammar Guide. Absorb these rules into your mind and your writing can only improve.
Misplaced apostrophes are one of my biggest pet peeves. Apostrophes are used for only two reasons: to link together certain words (such as don’t for do not) and to indicate possession (such as the company’s social media team). There is absolutely no other reason to ever use an apostrophe. A common error I have seen that makes my grammar nerd blood boil is when an apostrophe is used to mistakenly pluralize a noun. I have thousands of books, NOT thousands of book’s. (The major exception to this is it’s vs. its. In this case, the apostrophe is only used to turn it is into it’s. For possession, always use its.)
It’s very easy to get carried away with commas. Used excessively, however, they can muddle up your sentences and make the line of thought confusing to follow. On the other hand, if you don’t use a comma where one belongs, you can change the entire meaning of the sentence. (“Time to eat, folks” vs. “time to eat folks” should illustrate this cannibalistic mistake quite well.) Use a comma to set apart another phrase in the sentence, one that usually includes an additional detail or two. If you can take the phrase out of the sentence without destroying its performance, you’ve correctly employed a comma.
Here are a few other specific situations that benefit from commas:
- After “introductory clauses, phrases or words.” Once spring is finally here, I can start my daily morning run.
- To split up two or more adjectives describing the same noun. The family dog has soft, pretty fur.
- To set apart quotations. “The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar,” said Michel de Montaigne.
Periods & Parentheses
When you’re writing a sentence that includes a parenthetical statement, it can be tricky to determine where to place the period. But all you have to do solve this punctuation mark mystery is remember one simple rule. If your parenthetical statement is a fragment (like this), place the period (or whatever other punctuation mark) outside the closing parenthesis. If your parenthetical statement is its own sentence, however, then the period should go within. (This would be an example of that.)
Colons & Semicolons
The thing about colons is that you should only use them after a statement that is a complete sentence. Whether introducing a related subject or offering a type of list, the statement after the colon should either clarify or go into further detail about what came before. An easy tip you can use to determine if you should use a colon is to replace the colon with the word namely. If it makes sense, then you’re good to go. Check out the following sentence for an example of a properly used colon. She only likes dancing with two people: her best friend and cousin. You can also say, She only likes dancing with two people, namely, her best and cousin, and it makes perfect sense.
Semicolons are a slightly different matter, and less frequently employed. Nevertheless, you should still know how to use them. The most typical use of the semicolon is to connect two independent clauses that are related to one another. (The key here is that both halves off the sentence should be their own complete thoughts.) Another way you can appropriately use semicolons is to separate items in a list if it would be confusing to read otherwise.
“Everyone makes mistakes every now and then. It’s perfectly human and even encouraged, provided you learn and take away something valuable from the error.”
However, blog posts and other types of digital content will likely suffer if you allow too many punctuation errors to get by. It simply doesn’t look good for you or the brand or company that you represent. So next time you put your content marketing hat on, keep our punctuation tips in mind to keep your writing as clear as ever.