Useful Tips How To Improve Your Punctuation Skills


Every pupil, every student should sometimes write some essays, some term papers, some thesis and many other important papers. You may cope with the task, but also you may spoil your work with terrible punctuation! That will be incredibly unpleasant experience when your mark will be “C” or even “E” because of superfluous comma, or apostrophe… That is why the team of professional editors presents to your attention the article, which will help you to improve your punctuation skills.

Punctuation rules


  1. Commas are used for division of the simple sentences united by means of conjunctions:

  • The weather is bad, but I will go there all the same.

  • Yesterday I was not so busy, so I went to the cafe with my friends.

However, if the sentence is short, a comma before the conjunction "and", "or" can be missed, for example:

  • The rain stopped and the sun came out.

  • Tomorrow we will go to the theatre or just walk in the city-center.

  1. Commas are used after parenthesises, phrases or subordinate clauses which precede the superordinate clause:

  • While I was watching fast-breaking news, my cats stole my breakfast!

  • If you feel nothing to him, you should leave him.

Note: On the contrary, if at first there is a superordinate clause, and then the subordinate clause, the rule doesn't work, for example, the following two examples are wrong, the comma isn't necessary in them:

  • It started raining while I was drinking beer with my friends in our favorite bar.

  • You should try to save the relationship if you love him.

  1. Parenthesises which should be marked off by a comma: "yes", "no" and "well", for example:

  • No, I do not agree to go there without you.

  • Yes, I am going to cook chicken tonight.

  • Well, our administrator will consider your request.

  1. The explanatory introduction phrase is marked off by commas on both sides, for example:

  • Several years ago I was travelling in the north of America with Alice and Pete, my childhood friends.

  • “The War and Peace”, a novel written by Leo Tolstoy, is my favorite book.

You can check yourself. Just cut out the explanatory introduction phrase from the sentence. If the sense of the sentence hasn't changed, so you have put commas where they are really necessary. Let’s check our examples!

  • Several years ago I was travelling in the north of America with Alice and Pete.

  • “The War and Peace” is my favorite book.

As a result the sense of our sentences has not changed, so we used commas in the right way.

  1. Unlike in other languages the comma isn't put in a complex sentence before the conjunction "that", for example:

  • She said that she was going to visit her boss in the hospital.

  • The problem is that her salary doesn’t let her to rent the apartment near the workplace.

  1. When there is enumeration of homogeneous parts of the sentence the comma is put as well before the conjunction "and", for example:

  • Today I have washed the dishes, done the hoovering, cooked dinner and watered the flowers.

  • I have bought a dress, shorts, a blouse, and new shoes!

Such comma is called "Oxford comma" in some sources because it is the standard method of teaching at the Oxford University.

  1. Commas are used for marking off the direct speech:

  • He said with enthusiasm, “I was looking for you the whole life!”

  • “She was going,” Arnold answered, “to do everything herself.”

  1. Use commas if they are necessary to avoid confusion:

  • To Alice, Pete has always been the main problem.

  1. Commas are used for marking off all place names, dates, (except month and day), addresses (except number of the street and the name), and headings in names.

  • Alice has been living in Birmingham, Alabama, for 17 years.

  • October 7, 2016, was the most important day in their lives.

Perhaps, you will meet a comma between house number and street's name somewhere. It is not a mistake; it is just an outdated style.

If you have what to add about usage of commas, you may contact us and tell about the rule we have missed!

Period or Full Stop

The main purpose of this punctuation mark is to finish the sentence.

Also the Full Stop is used in the majority of abbreviations. Some sources say that Full Stop at the end of an abbreviation should be put only if the last letter of abbreviation isn't the last letter of the word, for example: Gen. (Secretary) – General Secretary. If the last letter of abbreviation is the last letter of the word (Mr – Mister, St – Saint), then the Full Stop isn't put.

Other sources recommend to put the Full Stop always at the end of abbreviations – Mr. Jones, St. Patrick’s Day.

If the abbreviation is pronounced, we don't put the Full Stop, for example, NASA – is correct, and N.A.S.A. – is wrong.

Also here you may read more about usage of capital letters.

Question Mark

Question mark is a punctuation mark, which is rather easy in use. It is used only in one case – at the end of the sentence containing a question, for example:

  • How much money does it cost?

  • Where have you been the whole summer?

However in indirect questions the question mark isn't put:

  • He asked how many people would come to the party.

Also the question mark isn't put if the sentence begins with such phrase as "I wonder"; "He doesn't know"; "I don't remember". It is the most widespread mistake of using a question mark.

  • I wonder how long this trip will last.

  • He doesn’t know when she will come.

  • I don’t remember where they lived in 1990.

Exclamation Mark

Use it only for expression of commands, orders or for expression of emotions, for example:

  • Stop crying!

  • What a beautiful house!

  • Come in!

Quote Marks

Quote marks are used when it is necessary to represent truly words of other person (the direct speech), for example:

  • My father said, “I will help you to win.”

If you quote the person who quotes other person, use single quotes:

  • Michael said “Ma girlfriend yelled at me today! ‘Get off my flat!’ she said.”

Quote marks can be also used for expression of irony or sarcasm or to note something unusual:

  • Your so-called “work” doesn’t bring money!

  • Her so-called “boyfriend” should have protected her!


The colon is used after the statement to enter one (or more) directly related idea, for example, enumeration, the quote or other comment illustrating or explaining this statement, for example:

  • The following Asian countries were represented at the session: Germany, Ukraine, and Italy.

  • Literature is more than just books: it is it is an expression of deep feeling and ethical values of the author.


Use a semicolon for communication of the independent sentences which aren't connected by the conjunction, for example:

  • The sky is not covered with clouds; the sun is shining.

  • The teacher is very good; my son understands the subject well.

The semicolon is also used to connect parts of the sentence or compound sentences in which there are already commas, for example:

  • His grandmother lived in a big house, rather far from the nearest town; there was all necessary for carefree life.


Parentheses are used if it is necessary to mark the additional, insignificant material included in the sentence as background information, for example dates, sources, or ideas:

  • She became the Associate Administrator (some people say, this is because she was a sister of the company owner) and worked for 7 years in this company.


  1. Apostrophe for expression of the short form

The apostrophe has the mission and, first of all, indicates the short grammatical form, i.e. missing letters, for example:

  • It’s my computer. = It is my computer. - in this case the apostrophe indicates a short form of an auxiliary verb "is";

  • You aren’t a responsible student. = You are not a responsible student. – here is a short form of auxiliary verb “are” and “not”;

Usage of an apostrophe for replacement of a missing letter isn't welcomed in formal and written language where all words have to be written completely. It is purely colloquial form and if it is used in the letter, it is exclusive with the purpose to show how people speak. Here still examples:

  • Don’t be so stubborn!

  • Didn’t you know it?

Here is the full list of short forms:

  • I’m = I am;

  • You’re = you are;

  • He’s = he is;

  • She’s = she is;

  • It’s = it is;

  • We’re = we are;

  • They’re = they are;

  • Isn’t = is not;

  • Aren’t = are not;

  • Can’t = cannot;

  • Don’t = do not;

  • Who’s = who is;

  • Won’t = will not;

  • He’ll = he will;

  • She’ll = she will;

  • We’ll = we will;

  • I’ll = I will;

  • You’ll = you will;

  • They’ll = they will;

  • I’ve = I have;

  • We’ve = we have;

  • She’s = she has;

  • He’s = he has;

  • It’s = It has;

  • They’ve = they have;

  • Haven’t = have not;

  • Hasn’t = has not;

  • Hadn’t = had not;

  • I’d = I had;

  • You’d = you had;

  • We’d = we had;

  • He’d =he had;

  • They’d = they would;

  • Wouldn’t = would not;

  • Shouldn’t = should not;

  • Mustn’t = must not;

  • Needn’t = need not;

  • She’d = she had;

  • It’d = it had;

  • I’d = I would;

  • You’d = you would;

  • He’d = he would;

  • She’d = she would.

  1. The apostrophe is also necessary for formation of possessive case of nouns.

  • This is my wife’s bag.

  • Your brother’s friend is very polite.

  • My girlfriend’s dress is so beautiful!

Students often experience difficulty where to put an apostrophe. The rule is simple: the apostrophe needs to be put to a letter "s" for nouns in singular (the student’s work – work of the student) and after a letter "s" — if the noun in possessive case is in plural (my friends’ house – the house of my friends). Here some more examples:

  • His parents’ house has several entrances.

  • My friends’ idea is to buy a bouquet of roses for our teacher.

  • Our colleagues’ office is on the second floor.

Observance of grammar rules is very important for every person. Do not forget about it.

It should be noted!

Never use an apostrophe for expression of plural of nouns! It is very widespread mistake. Plural of nouns is formed by means of "s" (a book – books, a baby – babies), or a special form (a child – children, a man – men), any apostrophe!

In conclusion of this subject, I would like to advise you to read more and pay attention to punctuation marks in books, in newspapers’ articles and so on. We tried to tell you the most important rules, which should help you to improve and to edit your own essays, term papers and even dissertation! Read more in our blog how to edit your essay like a professional editor.

But it may happen that you have no time for editing, or you even have missed your deadline… In that case will help you with your paper. We have more than 400 professional editors in our team. Our prices are more pleasant than on other sites, you may examine them here. So please do not hesitate to ask questions, to contact us, to place your orders.