Punctuation tips

Punctuation top tips – apostrophes & commas

Have you noticed how people either use too many or too few commas in a sentence or use apostrophes incorrectly?

In speaking, we use pauses and the pitch of the voice to make what we say clear. Punctuation plays a similar role in writing, making it easier to read. Apostrophes and commas are two of the most common punctuation marks used in English.

Here are some top tips to help you use each of these correctly.

Apostrophes

The apostrophe may be the most abused punctuation mark in the English language.

The apostrophe has two uses:

1. To show possession

For example:

The cat’s whiskers which means the whiskers of the cat (as in one cat).

The cats’ whiskers which means the whiskers of the cats (as in more than one cat).

2. To indicate the contraction of words

For example: can’t, won’t, wouldn’t

As always in English, there is an exception. This exception has common errors when it comes to using the apostrophe. The word its shows possession whereas it’s is a contraction of it is.

For example:

Showing possession: The cat hurt its paw.

As a contraction: It’s cold outside.

Commas

Commas have a number of uses. The following are three common uses.

1. They can provide a pause when reading and can also change the meaning of a sentence.

For example:

Let’s eat Grandpa.

Let’s eat, Grandpa.

2. Commas separate items in a list. A point to remember is to always use ‘and’ to separate the last two items on the list.

For example:

I enjoy long walks on the beach, bike riding, dogs, cooking and movies.

3. Commas mark the less important parts of a sentence and are a way of inserting detail or interest.

For example:

The boat, which was moored near the beach, had a dog on board.

The sentence still makes sense if which was moored near the beach is removed.

Follow these tips to help you use apostrophes and commas correctly in sentences.

Do you have questions about using punctuation correctly? Let me know below.

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Learn About This Author
Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone is the author of Success Talks: Conversations with Everyday Leaders. Maria works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. She provides programs in presentation skills, business writing and effective communication as a leader and team member.

Comments 4

  1. Hi Maria,

    Always newsworthy and useful. I will have to watch my commas and apostrophes when I write to you 🙂

    It’s a shame many Millennials have lost the power of the written word, and you only have to read the news in every media source to notice the errors.

    Regards

    Jim

    P.S. our daughter Jessica says the news journalists are under so much pressure to produce so many stories in a day they just “rush them through”, but can’t they stop and proof-read them?

    1. Valid comments, Jim. It’s unfortunate that we’re seeing such an increase in the mis-use of commas and apostrophes in written communication. I wonder if people are not proof-reading their work because they may not be sure as to what to look out for to make it more ‘readable’ – even if they write professionally.

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