Practical Academic Tips Issue No. 4

Punctuation

Punctuation is the art of using conventional marks, such as comma, period, and apostrophe, to separate elements in written texts and to render their meaning clear. One author likens punctuation marks to road signs that guide readers on “how to arrive at the writer’s meaning” (Woods, 2006, p. vii). Another author compares them to musical notes that “direct a musician how to play” (Truss, 2004, p. 20). Imagine, then, what would happen if there were no road signs or musical notations, or if they were posted in the wrong places. The roads would become dangerous and the orchestra would be playing discordant music. Similarly, if punctuation marks were omitted or placed erroneously in the text, the reader would end up confused. Sentences would be convoluted and their meaning misunderstood.

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