English Punctuation
Periods and Commas

Below are the basic English punctuation rules for the period (full stop) and the comma, the most frequently used punctuation symbols in English. These two commonly used symbols are often the most misused. Reviewing the rules will help you create a piece of writing that conveys your meaning exactly as you intend, with no misinterpretations attached.

The Period:

A period (or a “full-stop” in British usage) is used to end a sentence. A sentence is a collection of one or more words with a subject and a predicate. Ending a sentence with a period implies that you need to take a pause and then begin reading the next sentence. It also implies that you are through with speaking for the time being until the next sentence begins. A period is a default ending mark to a sentence. Remember: Ending a sentence with no symbol is a punctuation error. Your sentences must end with an English punctuation mark. If no other basic punctuation (like a question mark, an exclamation mark etc) is to be used, a period fills in the space automatically.

Working on punctuation.

Example 1: This website offers great help on writing good and correct English.
Interpretation 1: This is a sentence that says something about this website, and ends it with a period (.).

Example 2: What happened was not what we expected.
Interpretation 2: Note that in the above sentence, the punctuation mark used is a period and not a question mark. Don’t be under the impression that every sentence that begins with a questioning pronoun like “what” will end with a question mark. It depends on the whole structure and contextual meaning of the sentence as to which symbol is best suited.

Using Commas:

Example 3: Young Emily likes eating apples, oranges, bananas, and strawberries.
Interpretation 3: Well, it’s clear that we have a short list of healthy fruits that small Emily loves to eat. Notice how a comma separates an old item from a new one to be written. Another thing to notice is the comma before conjunction word “and” just before the last element in the list (strawberries).

Example 4: I have a huge collection of books, e-books, articles, magazines, and quotes in my library.
Interpretation 4: Someone who probably likes to read has a collection of various pieces in their library. Again, the list is organized using a comma.

• The second common use of a comma in English punctuation is when you need to separate the two clauses from each other. As we discussed in Sentences, there are two phrases called the dependent clause and the independent clause. Let’s see an example.

Example 5: Although it was raining, Tina made it to the lecture.
Interpretation 5: The sentence above has two clauses; the first part before the comma is the dependent clause and the part following the comma is the independent clause which can stand on its own.

Example 6: If you are interested in getting the scholarship, you need to apply before the deadline.
Interpretation 6: The sentence has the dependent clause before the comma and independent clause following it. A comma is used to separate the two.

Third, a comma is used when two independent clauses joined together with a conjunction. Both these clauses are sufficient to form sentences on their own, but when joined together with a conjunction they form a new sentence.Look at the italicized sentence I‘ve used above, it forms a good example. We have two independent clauses in the sentence separated with a conjunction “but” and a comma. Are you with me on this? Okay, let’s see another example to be absolutely clear.

Example 7: We went for the trek, and we enjoyed it to the most.
Interpretation 7: Here, the conjunction used is “and”. Look how a comma helps two independent clauses to come together and make a new sentence.

Fourth, use a comma when you are going to use a quote.

Example 8: Susan said, “I am not going to the market today.”
Interpretation 8: The comma is introduced just before the starting quote. Alternatively, also notice the position of the period as being inside the ending quote in English punctuation.

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