5 Most Common Punctuation Mistakes!

August 16, 2020
SAC Tutoring

The worst thing an assessor or English teacher can come across when reading a student’s work, is the inability to breathe while reading a sentence.

Some sentences require an inhaler on hand in order to reach the end.

On the other hand, some sentences are broken up with so many commas, it’s difficult to get one whole idea flowing.

Punctuation matters.

It really does.

One comma, one full stop, or one semi colon can change the meaning of an entire sentence.

So let’s go ahead and have a look at some of the most common punctuation mistakes that we’ve noticed.

1. Full Stops

Unfortunately, some students don’t seem to understand the concept of breathing.

It’s not necessary for a sentence to be long in order for it to flow.

If you find that you’re receiving comments on your essays about your lack of full stops, then it’s best to start using short and sharp sentences instead of dragging them on.

Think of it as writing the way you’d speak to a friend.

If you’re saying something, you’ll find that you’ll come to a natural end when you run out of air, or when you come to the end of an idea.

Next time you’re writing an essay or a short answer question, read the sentence in your head the way you would speak to someone, and place the full stop where you find you’ve run out of breath.

2. Commas

Commas make a massive difference when it comes to the meaning of a sentence.

Eg. Let’s eat grandma. — this sounds as if we’re about to eat our grandma.

Let’s eat, grandma. — the meaning of this changes, because we are now inviting our grandma to eat with us.

A common mistake students make with commas is either using them too much within a sentence, or misplacing them altogether.

Commas are usually misplaced because students struggle with the concept of clauses (chunks or parts of a sentence).

In order to avoid making this mistake, think of your longer or more complex sentences as having different chunks.

When there is a need to breathe for a second, place the comma there, before doing the same thing to the other chunk.

This way, your commas won’t be all over the place or used incorrectly.

3. Dictation Marks

When it comes to speech marks, students tend to make the mistake of confusing double quotation marks and single quotation marks for each other.

Here’s the way we figure it’s best to remember them:

Double quotation marks are used for quotes that are more than three words.

Eg. Talthybius revealed that, “A man needs a heart of stone for this kind of work.”

However, single quotation marks are used for quotes or phrases that are three words or less.

Eg. Hecuba expresses that her dress was ‘ragged’ and ‘filthy’.

4. Exclamation Marks!



Exclamation marks are tempting to use.

In fact, a lot of creative responses have exclamations in almost every sentence.

Exclamation marks should be used to express surprise or shock, especially in dialogue, and help to show that someone is yelling.

Try and avoid using exclamation marks outside of dialogue, as sometimes is can be unnecessary and aesthetically displeasing.

5. Apostrophes

This one is as common as the sun.

Typically, we see a lot of apostrophes misplaced, either before an ’s’ or after an ’s’.

Eg. That was Johnnys’ ball — this is incorrect, because we need to show that the ball is Johnny’s possession.

Instead, it should be: That was Johnny’s ball.

By placing the apostrophe before the ’s’, we now see possession.

Another common mistake is neglecting the apostrophe, meaning that the apostrophe is not used at all.

For instance, we see a lot of students mistaking ‘there’ for ‘they are’.

Apostrophes are also used to create contractions, such as ‘they’re’ which is short for ‘they are’.

Now that you guys are familiar with what goes through a teacher’s mind in marking, you can go ahead and apply these corrections to your work.

Don’t forget that the person who’s reading your work needs to breathe!