Importance of Punctuation

Punctuation is the system of symbols used to separate written sentences and parts of sentences and to make their meaning clear. Each symbol is called a punctuation mark. Punctuation marks are tools used to structure and organize our words and to give sentences meaning and rhythm. The word punctuation is derived from the Latin word punctum and refers to the use of putting in points or stops in writing, in order to increase readability.

There are a few punctuation marks that we use regularly, each having a separate usage.

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As an analogy, think of the traffic signs that govern the rules of the road. When you see a green light, you proceed very confidently. When you see a red light, you bring your vehicle to a stop, and when you see a yellow light, you proceed with a little caution. These traffic rules help in the proper flow of traffic, avoids confusion, and makes driving safe and efficient.

Just as the traffic signals are vital for the proper flow of traffic, punctuation is used to fine-tune the traffic of words and sentences. Punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language. They tell us to slow down, pause, and/or stop.

Punctuation aids in describing the emotion behind every sentence and changes the tone of the said sentence if add it at the wrong place. Punctuating a sentence is really important, but punctuating properly is even more important. Punctuation marks in the English language can radically change the meaning of a sentence. Putting it in a wrong place or omitting it completely can lead to misinterpretation. In-spite of wonderful ideas and cleverly phrased sentences, poor and inaccurate punctuation will ruin the best of writing.

Punctuation marks are placed in the text to make meaning and make reading easier. Just as the traffic signals are common internationally, the writers from all over the globe have agreed that certain marks will signify specific things in written communication. Though there are slight differences in the punctuation rules (British and American), in general, they are universally standardized.

The various punctuation marks together to perform four main functions:

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The rules of punctuation are created and maintained to help make writing more effective. The rules are not static—they have changed over the years and will continue to change. What once might have been considered improper, may now be considered correct, and the vice versa. Punctuation marks help readers to understand what the writer is trying to say.  Without proper punctuation, serious sentences become jokes, misunderstandings flourish, and confusion reigns.

You all must have heard of the story of the English professor who wrote the following words on the blackboard and directed the students to punctuate it correctly:

                               Woman without her man is nothing

The boys wrote: Woman, without her man, is nothing.

The girls wrote: Woman! Without her, man is nothing.

Both these statements are grammatically correct but have an entirely different meaning.

Here is another story. A woman (Jane) writes a letter her fiancé telling him how much she loves him and what she feels for him.

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Now, let’s see what happens to the same letter if there were no punctuation mistakes and/or it was punctuated in an entirely different manner?

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We have just saved a heart from being broken, didn’t we? All thanks to correct punctuation.

Knowing how and when to use basic punctuation marks allows you to write clearly. If you use them well your sentences will be user-friendly.

When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly—with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow. In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard.” ~Russell Baker