Practical Use of Punctuation

Improper use of punctuation can damage your score badly. Your all the hard work may go in vain if you place a wrong punctuation. Because it can change the meaning. Therefore, punctuation is very important for your writing section. Sometimes you may need to use long and complex sentences in your IELTS essay writing. If you don't have a clear concept on punctuation, it will be a very difficult task for you to get a band 7 or 7 plus in writing. Check our detailed discussion on Punctuation.

Use of Period (.)

Use a period at the end of a complete statement.

Example: He knows me very well.

If you find abbreviation at the last word of a sentence, don't use another period.

Example: 

Don't write, He is Mr. Anderson, M.D..

Write, He is Mr. Anderson, M.D.

Question marks (?) and exclamation points (!) replace periods at the end of a sentence. 

Use of Comma (,)

Commas usually represent a brief pause; They're not as final as periods. Use comma in the following situations:

If you separate words, or groups of words in a series of three or more items.

Example: He is coming here along with his brother, sister, mother and grandparents.

If you need to separate two interchangeable adjectives. 

Example: You are a smart, energetic young man.

Don't join two independent sentences merely using commas. You can resort to cohesive devices if you really want to add two independent sentences.

For example: Say,

He attended class regularly, and got a good score in the exam.

or 

As he attended exam regularly, he got a good score.

Don't say:

He attended class regularly, he got a good score.

Use a comma after some words that introduce a sentence.

Example:

No, you cannot do it.

Why, I can do it.

Use commas to set off names, nicknames, title of a person that is directly addressed etc.

Example:

Yes, my friend, I will do it.

Good morning, Captain

Use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year, and always use a comma after the year.

Example:

He was born on May 9, 1995.

Use a comma to separate a city from its state, and also don't forget to put a comma after the state as well.

Example:

I’m from Dandenong, Victoria, Australia.

Use commas to add degrees or titles with names.

Example:

Alex Stuart, Ph.D., has just joined our party.

If a sentence starts with a dependent clause, use a comma after it.

Example:

If you don't like to play, you don't need to come.

Use a comma for separating a statement from a question.

Example:

He did it, didn't he?

 

If you need to separate contrasting parts of a sentence, use a comma. 

Example:

That is my bag, not yours.

Use of Semicolons (;)

A semicolon represents a slightly longer pause than a comma(,), but shorter than that of a period(.). Look at the following important uses of semicolons:

You can use a semicolon rather than using a period if you wish to shorten the pause. 

Example:

Please call me tomorrow; I will give you details then.

 

Use a semicolon before the terms however, therefore, that is, i.e., for example, e.g., for instance, etc., when they introduce a complete sentence.

Example:

Bring any two items; however, sleeping bags and tents are in short supply.

Use a semicolon if you want to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas.

Example:

Incorrect: My team members have come from different places. They have come from Melbourne, Victoria, Sydney, New South Wales, Orlando, Florida, and other places as well. 

Look at the sentence above, Melbourne is a city of Victoria state, Sydney is a city of New South Wales state and Orlando is a city of Florida state. You just used commas in this sentence, and see it's really difficult to identify which one is a state and which one is a city name here. Let's see the correct sentence below using semicolon.

Correct: My team members have come from different places. They have come from Melbourne, Victoria; Sydney, New South Wales; Orlando, Florida; and other places as well. 

Use of Colons (:)

A colon implies that what comes next is directly related to the previous sentence. Most of the time, it’s almost a definition or an example of what came before. In other words, a colon means “here’s what I mean.” 

Use a colon if you introduce a series of items. Remember, don't start with a capital letter after the colon unless it's a proper noun.

Example:

I left many things in the car: laptop, jacket, pencil, and mobile phone.

We're five members in our team: Jack, Josef, Maria, Chris, and Kate.

When you list items one by one per line, following a colon, and each point is just a single word or phrases preceded by letters, numbers, or bullet points, you don't have to follow capitalization and ending punctuation rules. Just be consistent.

Example 1:

If you want to be a confident writer,

you need to have the following:

  • idea             or    Idea

  • structure      or    Structure

  • grammar      or    Grammar

  • vocabulary   or    Vocabulary

Likewise,

  • idea generation 

                    or  Idea Generation

  • writing structure       

                   or  Writing Structure

  • essential grammar             

                 or  Essential Grammar 

  • appropriate vocabulary       

                or Appropriate Vocabulary

 

However, if each point is a complete sentence, you must follow both capitalization and ending punctuation rules.

Example 2:

These are the hotel rules:

  1. You must check in before 10 in the morning.

  2. You cannot leave the door open.

  3. You are not allowed to bring food from outside.

Check the following resources: