Punctuation: the Cornerstone of Good Writing

Punctuation is inescapable if you want to produce good quality writing. The term refers to a number of symbols which are used in writing to shape its meaning by elucidating each word’s role in a sentence. Without it, a piece of writing lacks structure, form and meaning.

Often, without the correct punctuation, a sentence fails to make any sense at all. Apostrophes, commas, full stops, colons, semicolons, hyphens and many other forms of punctuation play a central role in our understanding of language. They are absolutely vital if you want to make yourself clear on paper. Think about the following sentence: ‘Writing’s very important when you’re communicating; it has to be clear’. Without its apostrophes, semicolon and full stop, the sentence would have no meaning and would contain words which don’t actually exist in the English language.

If you don’t adhere to the rules of punctuation, you can also put yourself in very real danger of miscommunication with your audience. Punctuation has the power to completely skew the meaning of a sentence. Consider this example: ‘My hobbies include writing, poetry and music.’ If you remove the commas, this becomes: ‘My hobbies include writing poetry and music’. Writing is lost as one of the hobbies in the list – without the comma, it acts as the verb describing the process of producing the nouns, poetry and music.

If you’re not 100% confident with punctuation, practice makes perfect. The more you write the more you will improve. If you’re still not sure, ask someone to verify that your work reads as you want it to.