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Common Punctuation Mistakes and How to Correct Them

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

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Punctuation is a vital aspect of effective writing. It provides structure, clarity, and rhythm to our sentences, helping convey meaning accurately. However, punctuation mistakes can undermine the impact of our writing and lead to confusion. In this blog post, we'll explore some common punctuation mistakes and provide guidance on how to correct them.

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1. Misusing Commas

One of the most prevalent punctuation mistakes is the misuse of commas. Some common errors include using too many or too few commas, misplacing them in sentences, or omitting them where they are necessary. To correct this, familiarize yourself with the rules of comma usage, such as separating items in a series, setting off introductory phrases, or delineating clauses within a sentence.

  • Incorrect: Despite the complexity of the topic, it is essential to note, that understanding the rules of comma usage is crucial.

  • Correct: Despite the complexity of the topic, it is essential to note that understanding the rules of comma usage is crucial.

2. Neglecting the Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is often overlooked but can significantly impact the meaning of a sentence. It is the comma placed before the conjunction in a list of three or more items. Using the Oxford comma can prevent ambiguity and ensure clarity. This is a rule primarily followed by the US English convention.

  • Incorrect: "I love my parents, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga."

  • Correct: "I love my parents, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga."

3. Improper Use of Apostrophes

Apostrophes are commonly misused, particularly when indicating possession or forming contractions. Remember that apostrophes should never be used to make a word plural. "The cat's tail" indicates possession, while "I don't" is the contraction of "do not." Double-check the placement of apostrophes to avoid confusion and grammatical errors.

  • Incorrect: The cat's are playful and love to chase their tail's.

  • Correct: The cats are playful and love to chase their tails.

4. Overusing Exclamation Marks

While exclamation marks can add emphasis and express excitement, using them excessively can make your writing appear unprofessional or overenthusiastic. Reserve exclamation marks for genuine exclamations or strong emphasis and use them sparingly.

  • Incorrect: Hi! How are you?! What an incredible performance!!!

  • Correct: Hi! How are you? What an incredible performance!

5. Neglecting Quotation Marks and Punctuation

Quotation marks play a crucial role in indicating direct speech, titles, and quotations. Make sure to place punctuation marks (such as commas and periods) inside the quotation marks when they belong to the quoted material, but outside when they pertain to the overall sentence. For example, "She said, 'I'll be there soon.'" or "Did you read the article titled 'The Power of Words'?"

  • Incorrect: He asked, "What time is it"?

  • Correct: He asked, "What time is it?"

6. Confusing Dashes, Hyphens, and Minuses

Dashes, hyphens, and minuses have distinct uses but are often interchanged. Dashes are used to set off or emphasize information, while hyphens connect compound words or join prefixes and suffixes. Minus signs indicate subtraction in mathematical equations. Understanding the appropriate usage of each punctuation mark is essential for clear and accurate writing.

  • Incorrect: She bought a second-hand-car from the dealership.

  • Correct: She bought a second-hand car from the dealership.

7. Forgetting to End Sentences with Proper Punctuation

Every sentence should end with a period, question mark, or exclamation mark. Neglecting to use proper punctuation at the end of a sentence can lead to run-on sentences or confusion. Always check that each sentence is appropriately punctuated.

  • Incorrect: I'm going to the grocery store, do you need anything.

  • Correct: I'm going to the grocery store. Do you need anything?

8. Ignoring Parentheses and Brackets

Parentheses and brackets are used to enclose additional information or clarify elements within a sentence. Make sure to use them appropriately and close them when the enclosed information ends. Failing to do so can cause confusion or disrupt the flow of your writing.

  • Incorrect: The recipe called for ingredients such as flour, sugar, (optional) vanilla extract, and (essential) baking powder.

  • Correct: The recipe called for ingredients such as flour, sugar (optional: vanilla extract), and (essential: baking powder).


Proper punctuation is vital for clear and effective communication. By avoiding common punctuation mistakes and paying attention to the rules of punctuation, you can enhance the clarity and impact of your writing. If you need professional assistance in perfecting your punctuation, consider Verbify. Our expert proof-readers are skilled in identifying and correcting punctuation errors, ensuring your writing is precise and polished.

Contact us today

Don't let punctuation mistakes diminish the impact of your writing. Experience the excellence of Verbify's proofreading services by visiting our website today.

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