Does punctuation REALLY matter?


Why do we need punctuation marks?

The simple answer is that they help the reader make sense of our sentences. Whether you’re writing an email, letter or a business report, punctuating poorly will confuse and irritate your reader.

Accurately placed commasapostrophesbullet pointsquestion marks,exclamation marksquotation marks and colons help you say what you want more clearly, and in fewer words.

Think of them like road signs (or satnav). Without them, your reader might get to their destination eventually, but they’ll probably waste time going round in circles. At worst they might end up in completely the wrong place.

Take this classic ‘Dear John’ example:

First version

Dear Jon

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy — will you let me be yours?



Then, after a few changes…

Dear Jon

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?



So, yes – you do need to use commasapostrophes, full stops and so on in your writing, and you need to use them accurately. It’s also useful to know how to punctuate lists properly, and how to use the colon and the semicolon(and what the difference is!)

The good news is that there aren’t many rules to master, and they are quite simple when someone explains the difference in plain English.

Just click on the in-text links above for more information on the most common problems and errors, and find out how to fix them.

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