6 Common Punctuation Mistakes

Tomorrow is National Punctuation Day in the USA, so we thought we would celebrate like all grammar enthusiasts should by highlighting some of our favorite punctuation mistakes. Knowing how not to use punctuation is just as important as knowing how to use it correctly. Studying up on the common mistakes will help you avoid them in your every day English language usage, especially when you are first learning English. So how many of these do you recognize? Are you guilty of abusing English grammar with these common punctuation mistakes?


incorrect punctuation


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If you are learning English, or planning on learning English, understanding punctuation can be a key tool to moving up to the next level of language proficiency. The first step toward this, is knowing exactly how each of these punctuation marks work, and how you can apply them to your every day usage. Take a look at some of the rules and examples below:



There are many different ways that commas can be used, but most commonly, they are used to indicate a pause or break in a sentence, separating similar clauses that are dependant on one another. Another common use is when it comes after an introductory phrase.

            After running the 100-meter dash, he drank an entire bottle of water.


Quotation marks

There a simple rule to remember with quotation marks: they are used to quote something that was already said or written. If you want to include a sentence from a book you read or repeat something that someone said, then you would use quotation marks to highlight that specific sentence or statement.

            Then he said, "I'm not a fan of the Batman films." Can you believe it?


Exclamation points

This is the best way to introduce an excited tone into your writing. An exclamation point shows sense of excitement or anger, depending on what the sentence says and which sentences come before or after it.

            Do you wan't to get ice cream with me after class? I love ice cream!


Colon and Semicolon

You would use a colon if you were introducing a list of items, or expanding/clarifying a main clause. The semicolon, on the other hand, is used to join two independent clauses that are closely related. These clauses can stand on their own, but are combined because they are both used to emphasize one point.

            There are two choices for dinner: pizza or lasagna.

             I have a big test tomorrow; I can't go out with my friends tonight.



The apostrophe is most commonly it is used to indicate possession. 

            The cat's paws are white and brown.


Dashes and hyphens

There are two different types of dashes: an en dash (–) and an em dash (—).

            > The en dash replaces the word "through" when suggesting a duration of time

            Patrick studied in London from September–January.

            > The em dash suggest an interruption in thought or is used to expand a main clause

            It's that time of year again—time to get the sweaters and scarves out.



In the most simplest terms, hyphens are used to combine things. They can create compound adjectives and add prefixes onto words.

            Let me get you up-to-date. I have decided to re-cover my sofa and completely renovate the living room.


How are you feeling about your grammar punctuation knowledge? Are you ready to test your skills? Show us what you've got!


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