You’re well on your way towards finishing you next piece of content. Your fingers tap away merrily on the keyboard.
All is well.
Then suddenly, your good mood fades, the clicking of your keyboard comes to a screeching halt.
You have come up against your age-old nemesis.
Punctuation. Not the period at the end of the sentence kind of punctuation. This is a complex case.
Where does that comma go? Do I need a period and a comma?
These are the questions that often bring content creators to a screeching halt.
As small as the actual symbols are, punctuation plays a huge roll in the credibility and clarity of your content. Improperly placed punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence. Proper punctuation will not make your content the next big hit, but it will prevent it from being an eye sore.
This is not necessarily a normal lesson on punctuation. This post goes into some more advanced elements of punctuation that have a place in more complex writing.
If you write every day, you likely come across some of these punctuation problems. If you don’t but are planning to, consider this a good starting point for some of the punctuation complexities you might face going forward.
Abbreviations Followed by a Comma/Period
This example encompasses two very common conundrums that content creators often face when it comes to creating content. When you have a period abbreviating a word, it doesn’t affect the comma. The spelling of the word doesn’t change just because it is followed by a comma.
However, when a word is abbreviated with a period at the end of the sentence (e.g. “I work for Company Corp.”), you do not put both periods. It would be redundant.
Parenthesis and Terminal Punctuation (Sentence-ending punctuation)
When parentheses ending a sentence are used as an aside, the period goes outside of the parentheses. Basically, if you can remove the parentheses without changing the meaning of the sentence, then the period goes outside of the parentheses.
But there is yet another rule to this. If there is a full sentence inside the parentheses, then it is acceptable to put a period inside the parentheses.
E.g. Her report is worth reading. (You’ll be shocked.)
But it is also acceptable to say:
Her report is worth reading (you’ll be shocked).
When it comes to alternative punctuation, such as exclamation points and question marks, both a period and whatever punctuation needs to be left intact.
E.g. She is running late (isn’t she?).
Semi-colons are used to join two independent clauses that are closely related. This means that instead of the semi colon, they could be separated by the period. Often, writers will attempt to use a comma in place of the semi-colon, which is incorrect. This error, called a comma splice, is very common but easily avoided.
If you aren’t feeling confident about using a semi-colon, a coordinating conjunction with a comma can be used in its place.
E.g. He had a question, but she didn’t want to hear it.
Dash vs. Hyphen
The hyphen is used to connect two words without causing confusion. It’s important to consult your current style guide and/or dictionary to see which words are hyphenated and which words are connected by eliminating the space in between.
As for dashes, they are used for connecting parenthetical statements or commentary. These informal devices are good for showing your reader you are going to make a remark without deviating from the current topic.
Quotation marks and Terminal Punctuation
In the American style of writing, periods are always placed inside quotation marks. But in cases of alternative terminal punctuation, the punctuation is outside the quotation marks if it is not part of the quotation.
E.g. Did you know she loves the movie “Gone With The Wind”?
The more content you write, the more likely you are to run into these common punctuation problems. Those moments of hesitation and confusion are costing you valuable time and resources. Instead of letting them derail you, remember these tips for content with perfect punctuation. Your content will be better for it.
Is there a punctuation problem that you often encounter that we have not covered? What is it? Let us know in the comments section.