3 or 4 misused punctuation marks



For some reason, I’m a fan of punctuation marks. And to my dismay, I find that they are misused many a times in business writing.

Here are three common errors:

1. Semicolon

The semicolon is used to divide two sentences that are in some way related to each other. The key word is ‘sentence’. There has to be a sentence on both sides of a semicolon. Here are two examples:

I enjoy punctuation; the semicolon is my favourite mark. (correct usage)

I enjoy punctuation; the semicolon. (incorrect usage)

When you use a semicolon, think about whether it divides two sentences or not. What is a sentence? I hear you ask. A sentence is a group of words that:

a. has a subject and a verb;

b. makes complete sense on its own.

2. Exclamation marks!

Note that I used just one exclamation mark for the sub-heading. On is more than enough. Do not write: !!! Using too many exclamation marks dilutes the impact of your message. From now on, carefully dispense with these marks.

3. The use of the dash and colon

There are many uses of these punctuation marks, but I have one particular use in mind. When introducing a list, many people in India start with :–

That is redundant. Either go with the colon (:), or go with the dash (–). Why go with both? That makes your writing unnecessarily heavy.

I leave you with this thought. When it comes to using punctuation, keep it light.