2. Remember there are other types of punctuation other than commas and full stops. Semi-colons (;) help us separate ideas too. They separate ideas that grammatically can be independent but are closely connected (Kevin wanted to go out; Julie didn’t really feel like it). Semi-colons are very commonly used in English — as are hyphens (as you can see, I just used one! How do you think hyphens are used in punctuation?).

3. An ellipsis (…) is the most overused piece of punctuation regarding compositions. It is quite rarely used in writing. It indicates something has been omitted or that there is a pause in speech (when writing what a person says) e.g «Harriet…there is something I have been meaning to tell you». This is used frequently with speech but not in main blocks of writing. An ellipsis can only contain three dots. No more, no less.

4. In addition, try not to use any more than one exclamation mark or question mark (e.g don’t use three in a row, like this???). This is very emphatic and would express extreme surprise or confusion. We never use two, nor four, nor more than this; it’s very strange to use more than once in a piece of writing. If you overuse punctuation like this, you’ll sound like an emotional teenager!

Look at the difference between these two pieces of writing, and see which one you think is well-punctuated.

I was walking down the street when suddenly a car pulled out in front of me I was very surprised and nearly fell over!!!! When I pulled myself together I saw that it was my friend, Lola, driving. She saw me and asked Are you okay??

I was walking down the street when, suddenly, a car pulled out in front of me; I was very surprised and nearly fell over! When I pulled myself together I saw that it was my friend, Lola, driving. She saw me and asked: «Are you okay?»

You may not think your punctuation is important, but it very much affects how the reader ‘hears’ your voice in their head. It can also change a sentence grammatically — punctuation affects meaning, too!

Let’s eat, grandma!

OR

Let’s eat grandma!

Can you see the difference? Without a comma, you are suggesting your lovely granny would make a nice meal – punctuation saves lives!

E. Lawrenson