Writing Tip 3: Why Punctuation Is Important
Punctuate – so your reader understands what you’re trying to say.
Punctuation is wonderful. It makes your meaning clear. On a page, we don’t have access to all the extras we use when we speak – our eyes, our voice, our gestures and stance. What we use instead is – you guessed it – punctuation. There are many punctuation marks, and each has a different function (sometimes more than one), However, the two most important and most used are the full stop and the comma.
A full stop is the oldest sibling in the punctuation family. It’s a bit bossy. It’s always telling you to slow down and breathe. It separates your thoughts into clear and distinct parts. You use it to show you’ve finished a thought.
The full stop can be used for impact:
The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
In the paragraph, using only full stops to punctuate leads to clunky writing. The solution to this problem is the comma. A comma is the slightly flighty, often misunderstood younger sibling, who shows up when it shouldn’t and absents itself when it’s needed. It’s great at parties, because it knows how to make a conversation flow, by making everybody feel like they’re making complete sense (even if they’ve had a wine or two).
Here are a couple of examples of how commas connect thoughts within a sentence:
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
I am simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful, lazy, and driven.
A comma separates parts of a sentence, or items in a list. The main function of a comma is to help make your meaning clear.
We’ve all seen ‘grammar matters’ and ‘comma matters’ sentences like this one:
‘Let’s eat Grandma.’ / ‘Let’s eat, Grandma.’
It’s clear in these how the comma can change the meaning of the sentence. This means that used wisely, the comma is a key tool for you as you try to share your message.
I often get clients who really just want to understand these two little punctuation marks, and how to use them. They recognise that punctuation is the key to clear communication, and they want to get the upper hand over the slippery little devils.