9 Most Common Punctuation Errors That You Should Avoid

One might say that punctuations are not as significant as the substance of a certain work. However, a single punctuation error can put one’s business, relationship, and even life at stake. The meaning of a word easily changes if you miss a comma or overuse it.

To ensure that you will not encounter any unnecessary misfortune when writing, we have listed some common punctuation errors that you should avoid from now on:

  1. Missing commas

    After introductory elements
    Introductory elements are words, phrases, or clauses that provide background information to the main sentence. From the name itself, these elements appear at the beginning of a sentence and should be set off with a comma.

    Incorrect: After their workout they immediately went to a buffet restaurant.
    Correct: After their workout, they immediately went to a buffet restaurant.

    Were you able to pause before reading the main idea above? If so, that proves the importance of placing a comma after an introductory element.

    Before coordinating conjunctions
    When coordinating conjunctions such as and, but, and or are used to connect two independent clauses, a comma should be placed before it.

    Incorrect: She wants to pursue singing but her parents want her to be a lawyer.
    Correct: She wants to pursue singing, but her parents want her to be a lawyer.

    To avoid this mistake, you only need to remember pairing coordinating conjunctions with a comma when writing compound sentences.

  2. Comma splices
    Are you one of those people who are fond of splicing commas? A comma splice happens when a comma joins two or more independent clauses. However, a comma is not enough to separate these sentences.

    Incorrect: They are planning to go to Japan next month, it is their dream destination.
    Correct: They are planning to go to Japan next month; it is their dream destination.

    Aside from the example given above, you can also fix a comma splice using a period or a comma with a coordinating conjunction. The key is to use punctuations the right way.

  3. Inconsistent use of Oxford commas
    There remain two schools of thought when it comes to using the Oxford or serial comma. If you have not heard of the name yet, this is the last comma you use before the last item in a series. Whether or not you use the Oxford comma, it all depends on the style guide that you follow. For instance, in AP Style, the Oxford comma is not recommended except for clarity purposes.

    Incorrect: My grandmother wants her daughters, in-laws, and grandchildren to visit her on Christmas, New Year and her birthday.
    Correct: My grandmother wants her daughters, in-laws, and grandchildren to visit her on Christmas, New Year, and her birthday.

    Whichever rule you want to follow, the key is consistency. In other words, pick one, and stay faithful!

  4. Run-on sentences
    Imagine reading a story that does not use a comma or a period. Would you love to continue reading it until the end? Run-on sentences occur when you connect two or more independent clauses without using any punctuation.

    Incorrect: My dream job is to be a chocolate tester I wouldn’t mind working there for long hours.
    Correct: My dream job is to be a chocolate tester. I wouldn’t mind working there for long hours.

    Not using a period or other appropriate punctuations makes it hard for your readers to understand your text. Never give them the hassle of reading your work without any pause when you can simply put a period at the end of your sentence.

  5. Using the semicolon and the colon interchangeably
    Others might think that both the semicolon and colon can be used to connect two independent clauses. However, note that a semicolon is used to connect closely related sentences, while a colon is used to introduce a set of items.

    You need to bring the following: pencil, paper, and scissors
    She lost her favorite jacket; her mother gave it to her on her birthday.

    As shown from the examples above, there is indeed a reason why the semicolon and colon are given different names.

  6. Using hyphens and dashes interchangeably
    Are you familiar with the differences among the hyphen (-), en dash (–), and em dash (—)? If so, that is great! A hyphen is often used to connect compound words used as adjectives; en dash, to write ranges; and em dash, to set apart an idea from the main clause. However, people tend to get confused when to use them, and worse, think that they are all the same.

    Hyphen: When you encounter real-life problems, you have no choice but to mature.
    En dash: She only read pages 13–18.
    Em dash: We need to keep in mind that overconfidence—or the lack of it—comes with consequences.

    It may get a little bit tricky sometimes, but you only have to know the difference among the three to properly apply them in your writing.

  7. Using hyphens after adverbs ending in -ly
    Are you one of those people who are guilty of committing this mistake? For instance, do you engage in politically-related discussions online? Well, from now on, you no longer have to repeat the same mistake. The rule is simple: Do not put a hyphen after adverbs ending in -ly.

  8. Too many exclamation points
    The cliché “Too much of everything is bad” applies to the use of multiple exclamations, especially in formal writing. Thus, there is no need for you to write like this!!! One is enough!

  9. Adding an apostrophe for plurals
    There may be a number of rules when it comes to the use of apostrophes, but one thing you need to remember is that plural forms do not need an apostrophe; possessive nouns do.

    Incorrect: We met the Lim’s.
    Correct: We met the Lims.
    Correct: We visited the Lims’ house.

    If you do not intend to show ownership, then do not use an apostrophe.

Indeed, if you do not punctuate right, the meaning of a sentence will change, creating misunderstandings and even chaos. You would not also want to get ridiculed because of a missing comma or period. Want to make sure that your text is free of errors? Avail of our English editing services now!