15 Punctuation Errors to Watch For
By far the most misunderstood punctuation mark is the simple comma.
Commas should be used to:
Commas should not be used to:
- 1. splice together independent or main clauses in a sentence
- 2. set off words or phrases within a sentence
- 3. set off nonessential elements of a sentence
That's 6 of the 15 most common punctuation errors right there.
- 4. separate the subject and predicate of a sentence, especially in the presence of restrictive elements
- 5. separate compound elements of a sentence when they are not independent clauses
- 6. follow conjunctions such as and, but, although, and such as (note proper comma use here!)
To illustrate the importance of proper comma use, consider the following sentence:
Let's eat grandma!
With the strategic (and proper) placement of just one comma, the sentence changes from a raging zombie-fest to a simple invitation:
Let's eat, grandma!
Here are some more punctuation errors to avoid:
If you can teach yourself how to avoid these errors, you'll likely never make an obvious punctuation error again.
- 7. improper colon use between verbs and their complements or between prepositions and their objects.
- 8. improper apostrophe use in possessives, especially those referring to time.
- 9. use of an apostrophe at all - EVER - in a plural. Never do this, it makes you look singularly uneducated.
- 10. improper semicolon use between independent and subordinate clauses.
- 11. using a colon instead of a semi-colon or vice-versa.
- 12. improper use of single quotation marks.
- 13. use of commas and periods outside closing quotation marks.
- 14. using a hyphen instead of a dash.
- 15. using an exclamation point in an academic paper that is not part of a direct quote.