Last time I explained the importance of punctuations. Today, I will continue by elaborating the meaning of the main punctuations and how they are expected to be used.
What Is A Punctuation
→ A punctuation is simply a sign or mark used in a written sentence to make it easy to read and understand
→ It is a way of conveying the exact intended meaning of spoken language
How A Comma Or Two Can Change The Meaning Of A Sentence
Consider the illustration of the famous story of Mrs Abington, the actress who played in the first performance of Sheridan’s School for Scandal. After the show she found a note, in her dressing room, left by her rival actress Mary Robinson. The piece of note had the following simple sentence:
“Mary Robinson says Mrs Abington is the greatest actress”
Mrs Abington, who was equally kind-hearted, added two commas and sent the note back. The simple sentence was majestically changed to:
“Mary Robinson, says Mrs Abington, is the greatest actress”
You see, now the meaning completely changed.
No Exact Rules To Guide The Usage Of Punctuations
No two writers will ever punctuate a passage or piece of writing in the same manner. Just like an artist, punctuation varies with the author’s taste and style (or creativity). But they will all conform to general principles to convey the same meaning.
The General Principles Of Punctuation
1) Full stop
→ Used to denote the end of a sentence
→ Indicates the longest and strongest pause between groups of words.
→ Also used as part of Abbreviations
M.P. (Member of Parliament)
M.A. (Master of Arts)
But if the contraction includes the final letter of the word, the full stop should be omitted
E.g: Dr, Mr, Ltd, .. etc.
So do not confuse Abbreviations with contractions
→ Used to denote the shortest natural pause between groups of words
→ But it is used in several different circumstances to give different meaning to a sentence. (I will elaborate on this in a later session)
→ The use of commas is often intuitive, try to find out where a pause is needed in spoken language
→ Used to separate sentences of equal importance (co-ordinate sentences). In such a case, a semicolon is more appropriate than a conjunction.
E.g: Your presentation pleased my boss; I was so delighted.
→ Used to mark or indicate an important pause.
You played a fabulous match today; I have observed how you bore your fatigue; this was a real test for you; and you received it as a challenge.
→ Used with words like therefore, however, nevertheless, besides, also, otherwise,.. etc. Joining these sentences with a semicolon has a stronger effect than just using conjunctions like ‘and’
– Ali has done a remarkable job with my car; therefore I will pay him well.
– Bloggers must take more exercise; otherwise they will get fat.
→ Next longest pause to full stop
→ To introduce a quotation or a speech not depending on a verb
→ often followed by a dash, like :-
– Rocky is not going to join our mutual deal: we could not offer him a big enough salary.
→ To introduce a number of items in a list or enumerations
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5) Interrogation note (note of interrogation) or question mark
→ Used when you are asking a direct question, but not after an indirect one.
Direct: I said to him, “When are you going back?”
Indirect: I asked him when he was going back.
6) Exclamation note or note of exclamation
→ Used after interjections
→ Used after groups of words or sentences expressing emotion or a wish
→ Used after an exclamatory sentence
What a wonderful blog!
I love you Alisha!
I wish my blog gets more readers!
→ Used to show the omission of a letter or letters.
I’ve ==> I have
don’t ==> I do not
it’s ==> it is
O’clock ==> of the clock
→ Used to denote the possessive case of nouns
My brother’s car
8) Quotation mark or inverted commas
→ Used to enclose direct speech
→ Used at the beginning and end of a quotation
9) Dash (single dash)
→ Used to indicate an emendation or an unexpected turn in a sentence
→ Used to define items following a general description
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All those general principles and definition of punctuation might vary slightly from author to author, writer to writer or blogger to blogger; but the basics nevertheless remains the same!