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15 Common Punctuation Mistakes to Avoid



Most of us studied punctuations long time back. As time progressed, punctuation errors started to sneak into our writing.


Punctuation is one of the most ignored areas in English usage. Some people feel they are good at it and are ignorant of their mistakes. Some other people feel punctuation does not have much impact on outcome of writing. But poor punctuation can have huge impact on readability of written text, and may even completely change the meaning of text.

Good news is that it is not very difficult to avoid punctuation mistakes. Let us go thru the list of most common mistakes and check if you make any of these mistakes.

1. Not using capital letter in all the words of proper noun

First letter of all the words in proper noun must be in capital letter.
  • Incorrect: 18 July is celebrated as nelson mandela international day.
  • Incorrect: 18 July is celebrated as Nelson mandela International day.
  • Correct: 18 July is celebrated as Nelson Mandela International Day.

2. Not using capital letters for acronyms

All the letters in an acronym should be in capital letters (e.g. it is always USA and never usa).
  • Incorrect: 4th of July fireworks show in usa lights up sky.
  • Correct: 4th of July fireworks show in USA lights up sky.

3. Using question mark when sentence is not a question

Question mark should not be used in indirect question.
  • Incorrect: Natasha asked me if she can meet tomorrow?
  • Correct: Natasha asked me if she can meet tomorrow.

4. Using multiple exclamation marks

Only one exclamation mark is enough to emphasis.
  • Incorrect: This is the most challenging issue I have ever faced!!!
  • Correct: This is the most challenging issue I have ever faced!

5. Using exclamation mark in every sentence

Use exclamation mark rarely, otherwise it uses the relevance. In fact, using it never will be a good copy writing goal to achieve.

6. Using comma between independent clauses without coordinating conjunction

Semi colon should be used between related independent clauses without conjunction. Comma should be used between related independent clauses with conjunction.
  • Incorrect: John was sick during exams, he did not perform well.
  • Correct: John was sick during exams; he did not perform well.
  • Correct: John was sick during exams, so he did not perform well.

7. Using comma for a complex list of items

If you need to separate out groups of words already using comma, use semi colon.
  • Incorrect: I will have a teleconference tomorrow with 3 colleagues: Rama from Bangalore, India, John from Minneapolis, USA, and Natasha from London, UK.
  • Correct: I will have a teleconference tomorrow with 3 colleagues: Rama from Bangalore, India; John from Minneapolis, USA; and Natasha from London, UK.

8. Using comma for essential modifiers

Comma should be used when adding non-essential modifiers to the sentence, but comma should not be used when adding essential modifiers to the sentence.
  • Incorrect: People, who pay bribe, are as guilty as people, who receive bribe.
  • Correct: People who pay bribe are as guilty as people who receive bribe.
Sometimes it can be confusing to know if modifier is essential or non-essential. In these cases, try to remove modifier. If sentence still makes sense, than the modifier is non-essential, else it is essential.

9. Using dash for introducing list or extra information

When you are introducing a list, extra information, or an example; use colon. Dash can be used as well, but use dash only if it is dramatic information, and warrants attention. As a general rule, limit the use of dash in your writing.
  • Incorrect: I am going to movie with 3 friends -Tom, Dick and Harry.
  • Correct: I am going to movie with 3 friends: Tom, Dick and Harry.

10. Not using hyphen for complex words when you should

When you are using complex word (a word that combines 2 or more words) which should act as one word, use hyphen to form the word.
  • Incorrect: As petrol prices continue to go up, automotive companies are launching fuel efficient car.
  • Correct: As petrol prices continue to go up, automotive companies are launching fuel-efficient car.

11. Not using hyphen for numbers written in words

You should always use hyphen when you are writing any number from 21 to 99 which does not end with zero in words.
  • Incorrect: ninety two
  • Correct: ninety-two
  • Incorrect: thirty two thousand three hundred and twenty four
  • Correct: thirty-two thousand three hundred and twenty-four

12. Using dash for adding extra information or comments

Parenthesis should be used when extra, non-essential information or comment need to be added. Dash can be used as well, but use dash only if it is dramatic information, and warrants attention. As a general rule, limit the use of dash in your writing.
  • Incorrect: I am going to eat only fruits - Mango and Banana - today.
  • Correct: I am going to eat only fruits (Mango and Banana) today.

13. Using apostrophe-s for words that end with “s”

Apostrophe-s should be omitted if the word ends with “s”.
  • Incorrect: apples’s farm
  • Correct: apples’ farm

14. Using apostrophe-s to make a word plural

To make a word plural, you must not use apostrophe-s. Simply add the “s” without apostrophe.
  • Incorrect: 90’s were the golden period for cinema.
  • Correct: 90s were the golden period for cinema.

15. Using more than 3 dots in ellipsis

Ellipsis should always use exactly 3 periods unless an extra period is required for full stop. If full stop is required, use 4 dots.
  • Incorrect: Everybody was waiting……
  • Correct: Everybody was waiting…
Go through the list of these common punctuation mistakes. Are you making any of these mistakes?

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