GrammarPhile Blog

6 Common Punctuation Mistakes That Drive Us Crazy

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 5, 2023 8:00:00 AM

Everyone everywhere is talking about goals and expectations for the new year. We’re all being bombarded online with inspirational fluff and hustle culture exhortations and lists of predictions for every industry and every aspect of life.

Well, we like to stand out. Not just for the quality of our proofreading and copyediting work, but for our unique approach to a new year. Today, instead of being fueled by resolutions with a half-life of 17 seconds or lofty aspirations for the perfect physique, how about being driven by rage? Good old-fashioned disgust centered around punctuation mistakes that make you want to throw a baby tantrum and toss dirty dishes out the kitchen window. We’ll go first.

In no particular order, here are six common punctuation mistakes that drive us crazy:

1. The “You don’t need an apostrophe, for the love!” apostrophe, also known as the grocer’s apostrophe, also known as the “Am I using a plural word? Then I’ll slap an apostrophe on to cover all my bases” apostrophe. For example:

-Avocado’s on sale! Buy two for the price of a little less than two.
-His coin’s are jingling like tiny flat bells.
-The Smythe’s live here.
-I know so many teachers’ who are sad winter break is over.

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Topics: punctuation, apostrophes

Advanced Punctuation Quiz

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Sep 7, 2017 7:30:00 AM

Punctuation is used in writing to establish clarity, tone, meaning, and structure. Consider this sentence without punctuation, and you’ll quickly remember why we need to use it.

maybe you dont always want to use commas periods colons etc when youre writing sentences when I am in a rush tired cold lazy or angry I sometimes leave out punctuation marks grammar is unnecessary anyway I can write without it and wont ever need it my aunt Jane once said she wasnt very good with writing and I never understood a word she wrote to me I think ill just learn enough punctuation not too much enough to write to Aunt Jane needs some help

Using punctuation properly helps your readers understand the message you’re attempting to convey, and ensures they don’t read one thing while you intend another. Punctuation promotes effective communication, which is why it’s so important in marketing and business writing.

Do you think you’re already a pro with punctuation? Test your punctuation knowledge with our quiz and get your answers on-screen when you complete the quiz. After you complete the quiz, the correct answers will be highlighted.

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Topics: punctuation, quiz, punctuation quiz

Punctuation in the 21st Century: What You Need to Know

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Feb 8, 2017 7:30:00 AM


A Very Brief History of Punctuation

Did you know that some early Greek and Latin texts lacked any punctuation whatsoever? There often weren't even distinct line breaks or paragraphs either. It was up to the reader or orator to figure it out. Can you imagine reading dense philosophy or a mathematics lesson without the information being separated into paragraphs with sentences? Yikes!

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Topics: punctuation, periods, em dash, question mark, exclamation point

Why Punctuation Matters More Than You Might Think

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jun 30, 2016 7:30:00 AM


Any proofreader worth their salt will tell you that a single punctuation mark can mean the difference between success and disaster. (If you don’t believe us, just ask a constitutional lawyer about the Great Semicolon Debate of 1787.)

More often, incorrect punctuation sends a message to your audience, and it’s not the one you intend. It signals that you’re sloppy in your written communications and don’t care enough to make it right. And if you’re careless in that area of your business, prospective clients will wonder if you’re sloppy in other areas. Can you afford to take that chance?

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Topics: punctuation, commas

You Want an Apostrophe with that Name?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Dec 11, 2014 7:00:00 AM

When we proofread documents for our business clients, we often find that writers don't know how and when to use an apostrophe. Today, let's explore some rules about using an apostrophe when writing the names of organizations and products that contain words that could be considered either possessive or descriptive terms.

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Topics: proofreading, punctuation, apostrophe

Polite Requests

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jul 16, 2014 5:30:00 AM

We're often asked how to punctuate requests properly and politely. Today's post addresses this issue.

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Topics: punctuation, question mark

"Where do question marks go?" he asked.

Posted by Phil Jamieson   May 28, 2014 6:00:00 AM


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Topics: punctuation, question mark

Quotation Marks and Other Punctuation

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 19, 2014 5:00:00 AM


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Topics: quotation marks, punctuation

More About Commas

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 5, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Today we'll add a few more guidelines about using commas.

The comma, aside from its technical uses in mathematical, bibliographical, and other contexts, indicates the smallest break in sentence structure. It denotes a slight pause. Effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with ease of reading being the primary goal.
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Topics: punctuation

Using Brackets in Quotations

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jan 15, 2014 6:30:00 AM

Press releases, news reports, and newsletters often include quotations. As the writer, you sometimes find the need to explain or elaborate. You can use brackets to do so. Here's how.

Parentheses within a quotation enclose material that is part of the quotation. Brackets are the only mark of punctuation that indicate that the enclosed material is not part of the quotation.

The mayor said, "John is my choice for treasurer" may not be clear if John has not been identified or if more than one John has been mentioned. The mayor said, "John [Smith] is my choice for treasurer" uses brackets to give the surname without misquoting the mayor.

The mayor said, "He is my choice for treasurer" can be clarified by replacing the pronoun with the bracketed name: The mayor said, "[John Smith] is my choice for treasurer." The pronoun could be allowed to stay—The mayor said, "He [John Smith] is my choice for treasurer"—but it is usually better to omit the pronoun.

Here's another example:  Smith said, "The Bard of Amherst [Emily Dickinson, 1830-86] is my favorite poet." This example uses the bracketed material after The Bard of Amherst rather than in place of it, because it is not just a pronoun that would be displaced; the writer does not want to lose the epithet that Smith used but does want to explain it.

The mayor said, "Smith [who is now out on bail] may not seem the obvious choice" uses brackets to supply material that may not be essential to clarify what the mayor said but that the writer thinks readers will find relevant.

Smith said, "I base my oratorical style on that of Pliny the Elder [actually, Pliny the Younger; the elder Pliny was a naturalist] and expect to overwhelm the electorate with my eloquence" uses brackets to enclose a correction. This type of bracketed correction seems snide and often is snide—which is all right when writers are being frankly derisive. But this can be objectionable if the writer is just slipping in a little dig to make himself appear superior to whomever he is quoting.

The overuse of [sic] indicates such a smart aleck. This can be a useful device when it is important to point out an error, but it should not appear after every minor error. Minor errors should either be allowed to stand for readers to notice themselves or else be quietly corrected, except in works of literary, historical, or legal significance in which such correction would be an unacceptable violation of the text.

Excessive uses of [sic] sometimes expose themselves: "Who [sic] shall I say is calling?" she warbled indicates that the writer, ignorant of proper grammar, thinks Whom would be correct. And GrammarPhile blog readers know "Who shall I say is calling?" is indeed correct!

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Topics: quotations, quotation marks, punctuation

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