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Punctuation and Personal Style

Methodology, Week 9 (Thursday)

The Main Punctuation
Purpose Of Punctuation In
To give written words the intended meaning and
expression of the spoken words.

Converting spoken words into a written form is an important process.

If you fail to convey the exact intended meaning of what someone said
you are essentially conveying the message in a different form - and that
may have consequences! Consider the famous story of Mrs. Abington,
the actress who played in the first performance of Sheridan School for
Scandal. After the show she found a note, in her dressing room, left by
her rival actress Mary Robinson. The note said the following: “
Important Points

1) As just mentioned, an alteration in the punctuation may

change the meaning of a sentence.


A1) “Your hand, Anne.

B2) “Your hand, Anne?”

These two phrases have different meaning which are indicated by

the punctuation marks. In spoken language, phrase A1 would
indicate a statement while phrase B2 is an inquiry. In written
language, if you don’t convey meaning correctly by using the
appropriate punctuation - and at the right position in the
sentence - you will undoubtedly convey a different idea.
Important Points

2) Good punctuation shows that a student or a writer has

Good knowledge of grammatical structure. And to understand
the latter, you should obviously understand a simple sentence,
a complex sentence and the meaning of each punctuation
and where to use them.

3) It is sometimes difficult for Korean students to feel the true

importance of punctuation because 1) punctuation points are not
really important for Korean writers and 2) it is possible to be a
grammatical writer in English without understanding a lot about
punctuation marks. However, clear punctuation is important
because it can help you move from being an “ok” English
Important Points
4) No exact rules to guide the usage of punctuation.
No two writers will ever punctuate a passage or piece of writing in
same manner. Just like an artist, punctuation varies with the
author’s taste
and style (or creativity). But they will all conform to general
principles to
convey the same meaning. You can choose whether to use a semi-
or a comma sometimes – but you must always start a sentence
with a
capital letter and end with a full stop (or a question or exclamation

Here are some things you have no little choice about:

General Usage
Comma: There are a number of different uses for commas in
Commas are used to:

- Separate a list of items. This is one of the most common

uses of a
comma. Notice that a comma is included before the
conjunction 'and' &
‘but’ which comes before the final element of a list. This
(called an
Oxford comma, is an American usage and is not standard in
writing). Examples: I like reading, listening to music, taking
General usage
Comma, continued: to introduce a direct quote
(although a
colon also works in this way). Examples: The boy said, "My
is often away during the week on business trips."

Question Mark: The question mark is used at the end of a

question. Examples: Where do you live? How long have they

Exclamation Point: The exclamation point is used at the

end of
a sentence to indicate great surprise. It is also used for
General usage
Semicolon: There are two uses for a semicolon in English.
Semicolons are used to:

- Separate two independent clauses. One or both of the

clauses are
short and the ideas expressed are usually very similar.
Examples: He
loves studying; He can't get enough of school.

- To separate groups of words that are themselves

separated by
commas. Examples: I took a holiday and played golf,
which I love;
read a lot, which I needed to do; and slept late, which I
hadn't done
for quite a while.
General usage
Colon : A colon can be used for two purposes:

- To provide additional details and explanation.

He had many reasons for joining the club: to get in
to make new friends, to lose some weight, and to
get out of
the house.

- To introduce a direct quote (a comma can also be

in this situation). Examples: He announced to his
The apostrophe is the most commonly mixed up
punctuation mark – even by English writers. The uses
of the apostrophe are as follows:

- To indicate omitted letters. Example: the

apostrophe represents IT IS, with the second “i”
omitted. This is a very important point because many
people (native English speakers) do not use the
apostrophe correctly in this way and will make errors
like “its all over” or, the hyper correct,
“shirt’s on sale”.

- Indicates a possessive in a singular noun.

Example: The boy’s hat

- Indicates time or quantity. Example: in one week’s

time. Two weeks’ notice.
General usage
- Features in Irish names, such as O’Neil and O’Casey.

- Indicates the plural of letters. Example: how many

m’s are in “omit”?

Also indicate the plurals of some words. Example:

what the do’s and don’t’s of writing? There are too
many sentences starting with and’s and but’s these
days aren’t there?*

Activity 1: Change the meaning
1) The travel agent called Joan Gordon Ellen Carter
and me.

c) How many people did the travel agent call?

d) Re-write the sentence to show that the agent called five people.
e) Re-write the sentence to show that the agent called three people.

2) Roger was born in France on September 7, 1970

he went to Canada to work with his brother.

i) What happened on September 7, 1970?

j) Re-write the sentence to show when Roger was born.
k) Re-write the sentence to show when Roger went to Canada.
Activity 2:Punctuation riddle
Joe had a ticket for a trip from Chicago to
Toronto. Add punctuation to each paragraph
to make it true.

3) Joe walked into the plane before the flight attendant

closed the door he walked out when the plane landed
where was Joe he was in Toronto.

5) Joe walked into the plane before the flight attendant

closed the door he walked out when the plane landed
where was Joe he was still in Chicago.
Activity 3: run-on sentences
In one of our earlier classes (the grammar lesson) we
talked about a run-on sentence. Can you remember
what a run-on sentence is – and is not? Here is a
editing symbol: ( …….. )R. Re-write the run-ons:
2) The geography in my hometown is interesting the land to
the east is flat and good for farming to the west it is hilly
and rocky.
3) The common occupations in my hometown are university
employee and government worker many people also make
electronic equipment others sell insurance or work in
Activity 4: read and punctuate
 Make groups of 3 or 4. Assign a “reader” and give each group
an article or poem to read. Have group mates listen and add
punctuation as they hear the reader's rhythm and intonation.
Ask them to listen for pauses and full stops. When they
finish, they should compare and discuss. It’s possible that
some students may make choices that reflect valid
punctuation rules – but are not in the text. These stylistic
choices are important for them to note as well.

As a follow-up, if you have time, you can talk about (or

the differences or similarities between different genres.
poem as compared to the bio, for example.