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6 Common Punctuation Errors that Embarrass English as a Second Language Learners

Updated on September 24, 2012
Punctuation errors can be embarrassing for learners of English as a Second Language but they are something that can be easily avoided.
Punctuation errors can be embarrassing for learners of English as a Second Language but they are something that can be easily avoided. | Source

Punctuation errors are very subtle mistakes that users of English as a Second Language often make.

While English as a Second Language students use up much time checking for mistakes in grammar and vocabulary when writing, they often overlook punctuation.

Yet punctuation errors can dent their reputation as much as grammatical and vocabulary lapses could.

To put it bluntly, poor grasp of basic punctuation rules can make them look sloppy or careless.

Below is a list of common punctuation errors that often bedevil students of English as a Second Language and ways to fix these errors easily and quickly.

1. Comma Splice

Many users of English as a Second Language try to use comma to link two independent clauses, making them commit the common punctuation error called comma splice.

An independent clause can stand as a sentence because its idea is complete. It can be punctuated with an end-stop punctuation like period, exclamation mark, question mark, or even a semi-colon.

To connect two independent clauses in one sentence, do this:

Use any of the correlative conjunctions called the FANBOYS: f = for, a = and, n = nor, b = but, y = yet, so = so.

To separate the two independent clauses into two separate sentences, simply use the appropriate end-stop punctuation.

Example:

Wrong:

He had planned to confess that he ate all the chocolates, he ate more to feel brave.

Right:

He had planned to confess that he ate all the chocolates, so he ate more to feel brave.

He had planned to confess that he ate all the chocolates. He ate more to feel brave.

He had planned to confess that he ate all the chocolates; he ate more to feel brave.

2. No Comma after Introductory Element

Learners of English as a Second Language often forget to use a comma after the introductory element that brings in the main part of their sentence, pushing them to commit yet another punctuation error.

To fix this problem, it is important to always use a comma after the introductory element and before the main part of the sentence.

Example:

Wrong:

Honestly her chicken curry is the spiciest in the whole continent.

Right:

Honestly, her chicken curry is the spiciest in the whole continent.

3. Comma in Restrictive Element

Still another punctuation error that English as a Second Language learners frequently make is the use of comma with a restrictive element in a sentence.

A restrictive element can be a clause, phrase, or word that modifies a word in a sentence and alters the meaning of a sentence when deleted.

A quick fix to this mistake is to simply avoid using a comma in restrictive elements.

Example:

Wrong:

He bought the engagement ring, that she badly wanted, at the black market.

Right:

He bought the engagement ring that she badly wanted at the black market.

He bought the engagement ring, which she badly wanted, at the black market.

4. Apostrophe to Form Plurals

Learners of English as a Second Language make the grave mistake of using apostrophes to form the plural form of a word, making them commit a very common punctuation error.

Apostrophes are used to show possession (Dale’s bike) or contraction (Dale’s coming up with a new book about the history of bicycles). They are not used to form plurals.

To form plurals, simply add –s, –es, or words that show plural form.

Example:

Wrong:

Its going to be a fun day! The dog’s are going to the beach.

Right:

It’s going to be a fun day! The dogs are going to the beach.

5. Too Many Punctuation Marks and Ellipsis

To express strong emotions like surprise, shock or disbelief, people who are learning English as a Second Language use several punctuation marks at the end of their sentence.

This causes them to make a mistake in punctuations.

To avoid this error, limit punctuation marks to only one.

Moreover, avoid using exclamation marks in formal writing or writing for business, academe, or other professions.

Example:

Wrong:

When are you going to deliver the box of vinegar I ordered?!#!!??

Right:

When are you going to deliver the box of vinegar I ordered?

Please let me know when I can expect the box of vinegar I ordered.

The same rule applies with ellipsis, which should only have three dots.

Example:

Wrong:

Minty, our monkey, is sleeping … … …

Right:

Minty, our monkey, is sleeping.

6. Quoting for Stress

Just like native English speakers, English as a Second Language learners would like to stress certain important words in their sentence.

Unfortunately, they do this by using quotation marks, which is not exactly the correct thing to do.

To highlight certain words in a sentence, use boldface type, capitalize all the letters, or even change the font’s color.

Better yet, use adjectives or adverbs to draw attention to certain words.

Using quotation marks to highlight words can result in confusion or even doubt.

Yes, this is because quotation marks are often used to denote irony.

Quotation marks are also used for quoting words, sentences, or reported speech.

Example:

Wrong:

This is the “best” wedding of the year!

Right:

This is the best wedding of the year!

Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

English Language Punctuations

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    • kerlynb profile imageAUTHOR

      kerlynb 

      7 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @wanzulfikri Thank you so much for the comment :)

    • wanzulfikri profile image

      wanzulfikri 

      7 years ago from Malaysia

      The tips in this hub help both native and non-native English speaker. Bravo for another great hub!

    • kerlynb profile imageAUTHOR

      kerlynb 

      7 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @ruffridyer, @Blond Logic, @Support Med., and @tirelesstraveler - Hi guys! Wow, never thought my hub could help even native English speakers. I'm soooo glad! Ooouuuiiiii! :D

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      7 years ago from California

      Great to be reminded of some of the basics. Teenage American girls also use excessive punctuation !!!....

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Agree, this hub is great for us all. Whether English is a second language, or for those of us who know only the English language; refresher courses are necessary for all. English is more complicated than most of us think. Great lesson! voted and rated.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      This hub is for everyone, not just people learning English as a second language.

      I think we all have made some of these mistakes with regards to punctuation. Thanks for the refresher course.

    • profile image

      ruffridyer 

      7 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      English in my first and only language and I make some of these errors.

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