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3 Punctuation Goofs That Make You Look Like An Amateur

Punctuation. Oh boy.

To non-writers, it’s a wonky bore. They’re half-right: It is wonky. But to some of us in the editing game, the very wonkiness of punctuation is what makes it exciting. Just think: One of the most consequential decisions in U.S. Supreme Court history, District of Columbia v. Heller (2007), came down to the placement of the second comma in the Second Amendment.

I get chills just thinking about that.

And who hasn’t chuckled at the punctuation memes that float around the internet? Perhaps the most ubiquitous is the terrifying “Let’s eat Grandpa / Let’s eat, Grandpa,” with the declaration, “Commas save lives.”

You can see, then, that proper punctuation is essential in having your message understood. Do it right, and your meaning is clear; do it wrong, and the reader will be stumbling about, grasping at your meaning like someone searching for the light switch in a dark room.

Many punctuation errors are less obvious to the untrained eye. I’m going to give you just three that can stick out and make you look downright amateurish:

My 3 Big Punctuation Peeves


Does a word become “more important” by capitalizing it? No, It Does Not. Stick to the simple rule that only proper nouns get capitalized.

Excess exclamation points!!!!!

Adding a “banger” to a sentence does not make it more energetic. Only if the words are already exciting do they deserve an exclamation point.

Comma splicing

This has become increasingly common lately – or maybe I’ve just started noticing. As in this: Two clauses are spliced together with a comma, it’s a puzzling habit that makes no sense to me. Instead of a comma, use a period or at least a semicolon.

Is It Time to Admit You Have a Problem?

Perhaps you recognize yourself as one of the repeat offenders here; in that case, please stop before you mispunctuate again. If you’re ready to seek treatment, the best place to start is Lynne Truss’ hilarious and yet informative 2003 best-seller, Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Then, the next time you read someone else’s work, scrutinize the punctuation and see if it helps or hurts your understanding of the message.

Grammar mavens: Got any punctuation peeves you’d like to get off your chest? Share in the comments.  

Top image: by The_Shirt_Yurt