People often don't use punctuation when instant messaging and using social media. However, it is still important to know when and how to use it, especially when writing more formally, such as in some emails, letters, reports and academic essays. Good punctuation helps us to convey our meaning more clearly and avoids misunderstandings.
- Use commas in non-defining relative clauses. Remember, non-defining relative clauses give extra information to the main clause. For example:
- Lindsay, who is my friend, often helps me with my homework.
- This phone, which is broken, needs to be fixed.
*We do not use a comma in defining relative clauses.
- The man who is wearing an eyepatch is a pirate.
2. Use a comma for lists: I want a new phone, new shoes, a car and a dog.
3. Semicolons are used to separate complex items in a list.
- I need an orange from Seville; an avocado which isn't too hard; a motorbike which hasn't been driven on Wednesdays and a Siberian hamster with three legs.
4. Colons can also come before a list, or used to introduce direct speech.
- The Prime Minister said: "There is no need to panic."
You can watch Dan's explanation and improve your listening skills at the same time.
Are the sentences correct or incorrect?
- I ordered seven pairs of socks, 2 jumpers, 6 dresses, and a hat.
Incorrect. We don't add a comma between the last two items on a list.
- I bought two pairs of shoes; four pairs of trousers; a pair of gloves and some tights.
Incorrect. This sentence is not a complex list and therefore we shouldn't use semicolons.
- Right, we are going to need: wrapping paper, scissors, sellotape and some glue.
- She was overheard saying; "This is a terrible idea."
Incorrect. It should be a colon to introduce direct speech.