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Five Pet Peeves about Punctuation

October 3rd, 2011 · No Comments · Writing

Punctuation is important.

Punctuation is important.

In case you missed it, Saturday, September 24 was the eighth annual National Punctuation Day.

This holiday was invented by Jeff Rubin, who runs a newsletter publishing company in Pinole, California. The NPD website includes links to a variety of interesting materials, not the least of which is this article about how a comma in a contract cost a telecommunications company more than $2 million.

Now that I’ve demonstrated the importance of correct punctuation, let’s take a look at five annoying but common punctuation mistakes.

5.  Exclamation proliferation
As an editor I see this often. Many people seem to think that if one exclamation point is good, three or four are better. It looks like this:

We’re having a Punctuation Day event this Saturday! Don’t miss it! Come and join the fun!!!

Ironically, more exclamation points don’t add emotion to your statements — they remove it. This is the same principle as using the f-word in every sentence. Such habits rob that particular word of its former power.

4. Commas and quotes
Commas and periods normally belong inside quotation marks. This can get confusing when the quotation marks are around a title rather than some spoken words.

Incorrect: He read Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”.

Correct:  He read the poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

3.  By the numbers
Plurals of numbers do not contain apostrophes.

Correct: the 1930s.

If you leave out part of a number, an apostrophe may be used to take its place.

Correct:  the ‘60s.


Two for one spelling and punctuation error

Two-for-one spelling and punctuation error

2.  Apostrophes in plurals
Plural nouns do not include apostrophes. When an apostrophe is used with a plural noun it shows possession.

Correct: The Smiths brought a box of candy. We also enjoyed the Jacksons’ sandwiches.

1.  Apostrophes in contractions
Finally, my number one pet peeve is confusion of “it’s” and “its.” The key to using these correctly is to remember that “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.” If you can slip “is” after “it,” use an apostrophe.

Correct: The dog wagged its tail. You wouldn’t say “The dog wagged it is tail.”

Correct: It’s time to draw this blog to a close. Yes, it is.

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