Punctuation fills our writing with silent intonation. We pause, stop, emphasize, or question using a comma, a period, an exclamation point, or a question mark. Correct punctuation adds clarity and precision to writing; it allows the writer to stop, pause, or give emphasis to certain parts of the sentence.
This section of the tutorial covers the most general uses of punctuation marks. Special attention is given to the most common mistakes that occur when punctuation does not follow standard written English conventions. The guidelines and examples given here do not offer a comprehensive analysis of all punctuation uses, rather a quick overview of some of the most frequent punctuation mistakes students make in writing. The section also covers the use of apostrophes and capital letters; these do not directly refer to punctuation but more to mechanics and spelling. However, just as with punctuation marks, knowledge of their proper use is intrinsic to good writing.
Take the Quick Self-Test to identify the common punctuation mistakes you may encounter in your writing. Follow the links included in the answers to the quiz questions to learn more about how to correct or avoid each punctuation mistake. If you prefer, you may review the entire punctuation section.