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An often overlooked part of English and language in general is punctuation. Not only is punctuation important for making your writing look nice and neat, it can also dramatically change the meaning of a sentence if it is used incorrectly. So, let’s have a look at making your writing look nice.

There are times when making a long sentence is very necessary. But a lot of times writing a long sentence, broken up with the odd comma here and there, is just almost unreadable. It tends to have lots of thoughts jumbled up together in one long, rambling sentence which just serves to confuse the reader.

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The best thing to do is to finish a thought and then end it with a full stop. Then, start your next thought with a new sentence. People like closure. When you are reading it is nice to know where one thought ends and another thought begins.

Another way to use punctuation is to emphasise a point. A good exclamation mark here and there can really drive a point home to the reader. Consider these two sentences…

I was finally able to pass the exam. What a great feeling.
I was finally able to pass the exam. What a great feeling!

Which sentence is really relating the emotion of the writer to the reader? I think it is the second one.

Now, let’s look at the other way punctuation can save the day.

Consider this sentence that was on an actual sign:

Hunters Please Use Caution When Hunting Pedestrians Using Walk Trails.

Aside from the capitalization, the thing that really leaps out at me is that hunters are hunting pedestrians apparently. Now let us put some punctuation in there:

Hunters: Please use caution when hunting. Pedestrians using walk trails.

Now we can see exactly what the hunters should be cautious about. Now for another one.

Attention Toilet only for disabled elderly pregnant children.

That is a really specific person that the toilet is allowed to be used by. Also, almost impossible, seeing as you can’t be elderly and a child at the same time. But, now let’s add some punctuation.

Attention: Toilet only for: Disabled. Elderly. Pregnant. Children.

Now we can see that they are four different kinds of people.

This well-meaning church sign actually has the complete opposite meaning to the one they hopefully wanted.

Morally bankrupt God offers instant credit.

That does not sound good. But now if we add some much needed punctuation, we can save God’s good name.

Morally bankrupt? God offers instant credit.

Now we have a good, Christian sounding sign.

So, as you can see, the correct use of punctuation can make an amazing and very necessary change to a sentence when the meaning is somewhat misleading. It can also save a person’s life if the intended meaning is not being interpreted correctly due to the badly worded sign.

It is always important to check your spelling, but it is also important to check your punctuation. Try our question and answer page and see how you go.


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