Many students encounter difficulties when trying to punctuate their essays correctly, especially those for whom English is a second language. In this series of exercises, the vocabulary for the various punctuation marks will be checked, then their function will be explored. Finally, there will be some texts to punctuate in the correct way.
• To check that the vocabulary to refer to punctuation is fully understood
• To raise awareness of the correct function of various punctuation marks
• To provide an opportunity to practise using punctuation marks correctly
Activity 1: The names and functions of the punctuation marks
Let's begin by making sure you are familiar with the names we use to refer to the various punctuation marks and with the functions they perform in a piece of text.
Follow the link to two timed matching exercises: the first matching the symbols to the words and the second matching the punctuation marks to the functions they perform in a text. You will have one minute to complete the activities.
The first activity focuses on the use of capital letters and commas.
Put a tick if you need to use capital letters for the categories of words in the column below. Alternatively, put a cross if it is not necessary to capitalise the words referred to.
geographical names e.g. rivers, cities, countries etc.
nationalities and languages
seasons in the year
personal names and titles
religions and religious festivals
names of companies and organisations
beginning sentences and direct speech
All of the categories need capital letters except for seasons in the year.
These categories need capital letters in English: geographical names (the River Solent), nationalities and languages (German and Punjabi), personal names and titles (Dr Howard Bench), religions and religious festivals (Islam and Eid), names of companies and organisations (Pepsi Cola and theTrades Union Congress) We also capitalise when beginning sentences and quoting direct speech; the only category in the column that does not need to be capitalised is seasons (spring, summer).
Put a tick if you need to put commas in the instances described in the column below. Alternatively, put a cross if it is not necessary to insert commas in these places.
to separate different items in a list
to separate non-defining relative clauses (which add extra, non-essential information e.g. "which was annoying")
before direct quotations
when joining two independent clauses with the linking words: "but", "or" and "so"
before the words "however" or "furthermore" when they connect two independent clauses
to separate the subject from a verb
before or after adverbial clauses of time (which tell you when the action took place e.g. "recently")
Commas are used:
to separate items in a list e.g. She travelled to Rome, Paris, London and Munich.
to separate non-defining relative clauses e.g. He arrived late for our meeting, which was annoying.
before direct quotations e.g. He exclaimed,"I've heard that before!"
when joining independent clauses with the linking words: "but", "or" and "so" e.g. She is rich, but she is also mean.
before or after adverbial clauses e.g. Recently, she has been very unhappy at work.
Commas are not used:
before the words "however" or "furthermore" - you need a full stop (or a semi-colon) before them, and a comma after them, when they come between two independent clauses e.g. I was late. However, so were the rest of the committee.
to separate the subject from the verb - no comma is necessary e.g. Sue and I are both good students.
Activity 3 : Inserting the correct punctuation
In this activity, you will test your knowledge of punctuation by correcting some paragraphs of text.
Rewrite the following short texts, putting in the correct punctuation marks as you do so.
in order to further evaluate the feasibility of implementing an online resource it was necessary to build up a picture of the learners access to and competence in various computer applications the participants were asked a range of questions relating to their use of computers two of the four interviewees said they had a computer at home one of those who said they had no computer at home did state that one of her sons had a computer she could use however all four respondents confirmed that they did have access to computers at work thus clarifying the findings of the questionnaire
Here is the answer:
In order to further evaluate the feasibility of implementing an online resource, it was necessary to build up a picture of the learners' access to, and competence in, various computer applications. The participants were asked a range of questions relating to their use of computers. Two of the four interviewees said they had a computer at home; one of those who said they had no computer at home did state that one of her sons had a computer she could use. However, all four respondents confirmed that they did have access to computers at work, thus clarifying the findings of the questionnaire.
yet as is evident from urs and kerrs quotes the performing of a task can be incorporated into the framework of a game ur wrote above the motivation to perform a clearly defined attainable but not too easy task is one of the factors in a game that produces pleasurable tension according to these definitions any of hadfields elementary communication games 1984 could equally be called communication tasks what then makes a task different from a game surely it is that the former is arduous and the latter is enjoyable
Here is the answer:
Yet, as is evident from Ur's and Kerr's quotes, the performing of a task can be incorporated into the framework of a game. Ur wrote above, "the motivation to perform a clearly defined, attainable but not too easy task" is one of the factors in a game that produces pleasurable tension. According to these definitions, any of "Hadfield's Elementary Communication Games" (1984) could equally be called "Communication Tasks". What then, makes a task different from a game? Surely, it is that the former is arduous and the latter is enjoyable.
Would you like to review the main points?
Here is a review of the main points contained in this task:
A comma is used to separate lists of nouns or adjectives, to separate phrases, before a conjunction, or before/around non-defining relative clauses.
An exclamation mark is used to show surprise, anger or amazement; it is not normally used in academic writing.
A colon is used to introduce a list or after a phrase to introduce a new but related idea.
A semi-colon is used to separate two sentences which share the same idea and are quite short; it is half way between a comma and a full stop.
A full stop is used at the end of a sentence, after abbreviations and in acronyms.
A slash is used to represent the concept "or"; it is also used in dates and URLs.
A dash is used for extra explanation or addition. It is longer than a hyphen (which is used in compound nouns and adjectives). Brackets are used to separate non-essential information from the rest of the sentence; they are also used in academic writing to contain authors and page numbers, when citing sources.
We need to use capital letters in English for: geographical names, nationalities and languages, personal names and titles, religions and religious festivals, for names of companies and organisations and when beginning sentences and when quoting direct speech. Commas are used to separate items in a list, to separate non-defining relative clauses, before direct quotations. We also use commas when we are joining independent clauses with some linking words ('but', 'or', and 'so') and before or after adverbial clauses. We do not need commas before the words 'however' or 'furthermore'. We need to use a full stop (or a semi-colon) before them, and a comma after them, when they come between two independent clauses.