The punctuation mark comma

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While more subtle than misspellings and grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes also hurt your credibility. Make sure to proofread carefully and look out for these common errors:

1. Punctuation Outside Quotes: In American English, punctuation should always be placed within quotation marks, even if it’s not part of the quotation itself.

Wrong: Jim was excited to attend the new workshop, “Social Media Strategies for HR”.

Right: Jim was excited to attend the new workshop, “Social Media Strategies for HR.”

2. Comma Splice: When a comma separates two independent clauses, they must be joined by a conjunction. Without a conjunction, it becomes a comma splice.

Wrong: Their video production package costs $8,000, we decided to hire them.

Right: Their video production package costs $8,000, and we decided to hire them.

Right: Their video production package costs $8,000. We decided to hire them.

3. Missing Comma after Introductory Elements: Introductory elements of a sentence need a comma afterwards.

Wrong: Before attending the meeting Sue proofread her presentation.

Right: Before attending the meeting, Sue proofread her presentation.

4. Misplaced Apostrophes: This mistake is especially common in internet and online writing. Use apostrophes for possessives and conjunctions where appropriate.

Wrong: Carol’s notes summarize you’re presentation.

Right: Carol’s notes summarize your presentation.

5. Incorrect use of Semicolons: Semicolons are frequently used incorrectly. They connect two independent clauses that could be distinct, separate sentences.

Wrong: The budget is tight; but we will make every effort to fund employee health initiatives.

Right: The budget is tight, but we will make every effort to fund employee health initatives.

Right: Employee health initiatives are vital; we will allocate important resources for these efforts.

Do you find any punctuation mistakes frequently in your writing? What errors drive you crazy?

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