Punctuation



·Definition

Punctuation consists of written marks which are primarily used to make clear to the readers how sentences are constructed. Punctuation helps to clarify and sometimes emphasize the meaning of a sentence. It is necessary to learn to use all the punctuation marks correctly.


·HistoryEvery punctuation mark has undergone its own process of evolution. Originally referred to as "pointing," the Encyclopedia Britannica<1> defines punctuation as, "The use of spacing, conventional signs, and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading, both silently and aloud, of handwritten and printed texts."
It was William Caxton who first use punctuation marks: the stroke the colon and the period. Soon, the stroke was replaced by comma, in the mean time, semicolon was introduced. Quotation marks are the most recently added form of punctuation, which is created in the late seventeenth century. Also at that time, some rules are tried to be established. The system of punctuation now used by writers of English has been complete since the 17th century. <2>



·Function<3>
1. Comma is mainly used to separate elements in a sentence and set off some parenthetical elements.
2. Period comes at the end of a sentence to finish a statement.
3. Question mark is used at the end of a direct question.
4. When colon is used, emphasis usually is put on the second clause. It is used after a greeting, and also it is followed by a list or quotation.
5. Dash is used to set emphasis or explain what you have stated.
6. Quotation mark is used to enclose a direct quotation.
7. Exclamation mark is used after an exclamatory sentence, or an emphatic interjection, or a phrase that expresses strong emotion.
8. Parenthesis is used to set off parenthetical, supplementary, or illustrative matter.




·Common Mistakes
Sometimes, a wrong use of punctuations may cause ambiguity or misunderstood. Here as follows are some categories of common punctuation errors especially for those who are learning English as a second language.
1. Apostrophe for Plurals
× The boy’s will go to the school tomorrow.
The boys will go to the school tomorrow.
2. Comma Splice
A comma splice is a comma that joins two independent clauses. You should replace comma
splices with either periods or semicolons.
× The teaching assistant had explicitly warned all the students not to make that particular mistake, however, several students didn’t go to the pre-lab discussion so they made the mistake anyway.
The teaching assistant had explicitly warned all the students not to make that particular mistake. However, several students didn’t go to the pre-lab discussion so they made the mistake anyway.
3. Dropping the Last Comma in a Series of Three or More Terms
×Carbon, silicon, germanium and selenium
Carbon, silicon, germanium, and selenium
4. Using period before conjunctions like but, yet, and, so, while, because…
× The child started crying. Because he lost his toy.
The child started crying because he lost his toy.
5. Misplacing Quotation Marks
× Uncle John said, “My car is blue”.
Uncle John said, “My car is blue.”



·References

<1> Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 13 May. 2011. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/483473/punctuation
<2> History of the Punctuation of English Writing. applet-magic.com. 2011. Web. 17 May. 2011. http://www.applet-magic.com/punctuation.htm
<3> Punctuation Marks. grammar.ccc.commnet.edu. 2011. Web. 27 May. 2011. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/marks.htm