How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 3)
Image courtesy of QuInn Domborwski (CC Flickr)
In the previous part, we covered some uses of the exclamation mark, question mark, and hyphen. Moving on, let’s take a closer look at three more punctuation marks, beginning with the dash.
The dash and hyphen are often confused by many language learners, as they are similar in appearance. The difference, of course, is that the dash is wider than the hyphen. However, their usage is entirely different.
While a hyphen holds different parts of a word (or different words) together, a dash is used to separate non-essential information in a sentence. It can also be used in a sentence instead of a comma, semicolon, or colon.
|to separate information that is not essential to understand the sentence||Getting the train ‒ though it’s often crowded ‒ is the fastest way to the city centre.|
|in place of a comma, semicolon, or colon, to show breaks in a sentence||He lives in a cottage ‒ which was built in the 1950s ‒ beside the lake.|
There are two main uses of the apostrophe: to show possession (i.e. something belongs to somebody) and to show omission (i.e. not including something).
|to show how a person or thing is related to, or belongs to, someone or something||Ben’s car (= a car owned by Ben)|
|to indicate that letters or numbers have been left out||she’ll (short for she will) | We got married in ’83 (short for 1983).|
|with the plurals of letters and digits||He hit four 6’s in an over. | There are two m’s in this word.|
Using an apostrophe to form the plural form of decades or abbreviations is considered incorrect these days. For example:
1930s ✔ (1930’s)
several MPs ✔ (several MP’s)
- Quotation mark
Known as inverted commas in British English, quotation marks can be single (‘s’) or double (“d”). They are commonly used at the beginning and end of direct speech – i.e. words someone said that are written down exactly as they were spoken.
|to mark the beginning and end of direct speech||The air hostess asked, “What would you like to have?”|
|to separate a word or phrase that is being discussed||His new book is called ‘The Rising Sons’.|