Empower Your Writing With the Top Punctuation Howlers Grammar Style Guide

Why Punctuation Matters

Next to common grammatical errors, like spelling mistakes (alot vs. a lot) and misused words (loose weight vs. lose weight), punctuation is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be.

Punctuation makes a huge impact! Take for instance this popular example of the power of punctuation:

An English professor wrote the following words on the chalkboard and asked the students to punctuate it correctly:
“A woman without her man is nothing”

All of the males in the class wrote:
“A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

All of the females in the class wrote:
“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

Punctuation is powerful.

You can harness this power to attract new readers and keep your current readers engaged with the free Top Punctuation Howlers PDF guide.

Unlike other style guides that imprison your writing or as one author put it, cause you to “type on eggs,” Top Punctuation Howlers is easy to understand with its plethora of examples and open-writing style recommendations.

It’s designed to help you strengthen your writing skills, no matter if you’re …

  • an exclamation point junky!!!!
  • constantly … in the state … of pause …
  • struggling with an apostrophes’ placement
  • an ESL writer who needs help with the nuances of English
  • lacking the necessary grammatical instruction
  • in need of a punctuation refresher
  • a writer or freelancer looking for a quick and easy reference guide

What’s Included

This free 29-page downloadable PDF features the 10 most-popular punctuation marks, their most common article writing mistakes, and tips to strengthen your writing skills. Check it out:

  • The Period
  • The Exclamation Point
  • The Comma
  • The Colon
  • The Semicolon
  • The Dash
  • The Parentheses
  • The Apostrophe
  • The Quotation Mark
  • The Hyphen

Don’t Take Our Word For It!

Appearing first on the EzineArticles Blog, the Top Punctuation Howlers have been a huge hit with our Expert Authors. Check out what they’re saying:

“Waooo! This is informative, educative and interesting.”
— Samuel Bani Dauda

“Fantastic! This column should be required reading in high school, college, and anywhere small-business owners congregate.”
— Tom Fusard

“Thank goodness there are still some people who care about the use and misuse of the English language.”
— Mary

“This is probably the best explanation I’ve ever read about the proper use of the comma. It’s easy to understand. Thank you!”
— Patti Winker

“I’m still laughing, Penny! (As well as learning.) What a very elegant way of reminding writers about grammar.”
— Lisa Strong Gorringe

Empower Your Writing

What have you got to lose?

Instantly download your FREE copy of the Top Punctuation Howlers here!

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34 Comments »


1

I’ve always found punctuation a little intimidating, this PDF is right on time.

Comment provided August 16, 2013 at 9:56 AM

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Gracious store writes:

You are not alone. I hardly know where to start nor end

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2
Edmund writes:

That is brilliant, Penny. Love the “woman without her man”. Am inclined to the female point of view even though male. Another great post, thank you.

Comment provided August 16, 2013 at 10:21 AM

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3
Ben Winter writes:

My favorite punctuation critique centers on the semicolon. Many do not understand its function or use rule. (However, the semicolon is permissible with a conjunction; but such is permissible only with other punctuation present in the sentence.)
Ben

Comment provided August 16, 2013 at 10:34 AM

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4

A woman without her man is nothing.
To me is correct, some sentences don’t need too much punctuations, what matters…we the understand it? Insightful and communicative and professional looking and appitaising [appetizing] write-up.

Comment provided August 16, 2013 at 11:09 AM

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Santanu writes:

That’s a superb punch line….and awesome article too.

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5
Edmund writes:

Princely, you just don’t understand Penny’s point. The sentence is completely different with the different punctuation. From the female point of view a man is nothing without his woman; from the male point of view a woman is nothing without her man. Punctuation is everything in this sentence and you can’t say that you understand it unless you can appreciate the difference between the two sentences with the same words but different punctuation.

Comment provided August 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM

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6

Loved the example about the power of punctuation -“A woman: without her, man is nothing.” . However, inserting the commas in “A woman, without her man, is nothing,” is incorrect. That sentence reads correctly without the commas as it is a restrictive (as opposed to a non-restrictive) clause. We need the information “without her man” to understand which woman we are talking about.

Comment provided August 16, 2013 at 1:22 PM

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Edmund writes:

Michelle. You are correct that the sentence reads as good English without the commas but punctuation is also used for emphasis.

Helena, who is a stunning beauty, is married to Edmund.

Without the commas the description of Helena becomes rather flat and the emphasis is that she is married to Edmund, the description of her beauty might as well have been left out; with the commas you know that Helena is a stunning beauty and rather think it irrelevent to whom she is married

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7
Jan writes:

A woman without her man is nothing.
That was an absolutely a brilliant example. I am going to implement that into my statement classes immediately.
Thank you

Comment provided August 16, 2013 at 1:40 PM

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8

Edmund, I thought so. Adding to that, I believe that any person reading this; will understand it as a man or as a woman. It’s natural.
If a man reads it, he’ll make himself more important- vice versa.
It’s just like saying: “women are crazy. Men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is because men are stupid.”
the men reading this, will say, YES! To that which concerns women, vice versa.
Punction is a very difficult thing. People don’t care about them- Sometimes. They just want to understand what your say.
Just that a well punctuated article looks good and neat.

Comment provided August 16, 2013 at 5:37 PM

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9
Timothy Lord writes:

God bless the English. Their language is an odd blend of other languages… Lately the SMS and IM communication technologies have deteriorated it down creating a sub-language in itself; whereby the younger generations are becoming both isolated and misunderstood. However, most don’t care as the perceive that those “oldies will die off anyway!”

Comment provided August 17, 2013 at 7:14 AM

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10

What interests me most are in the way the message is to come across, depend upon the story… Whether or not it is in UK, or US English. The norm is confusing; however, if grasped, can add layers to our personality. More discussion on this subject is very welcome.

Comment provided August 17, 2013 at 7:26 AM

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11

Edmund, it’s true that punctuation is used for emphasis, but that emphasis needs to be punctuated correctly. Considering that the article focuses on the correct use of commas, the examples given should not perpetuate its incorrect use.

Comment provided August 17, 2013 at 11:20 AM

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12

“… can add layers to our personality.” Huh.
Am sorry! I didn’t mean to… I thought, I was using an available example to illustrate, feelings of people [some] to things- the natural perspective.
and to tell myself that, Penny meant well to writers, in the article: Empower Your Writing With The Top Punctuation Howlers Grammar Style Guide.

Comment provided August 17, 2013 at 11:52 AM

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13
ART? writes:

Thanks, It is about time I understood American English punctuation, everyone complains about my lack of it.
ART?

Comment provided August 17, 2013 at 2:39 PM

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14
Randall Magwood writes:

I still make mistakes with punctuation errors… especially the common “alot” and “a lot”. I write alot of articles… i’m thinking it’s time for me to proofread my work lol.

Comment provided August 17, 2013 at 10:18 PM

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15

“Hmmm…” Alot (a lot) of the time; yes, that is one of my many… Another: He was walking down the road when she said: “I don’t believe you!” and Mageret said, “I’ll be back in a sec…”

Comment provided August 18, 2013 at 2:56 AM

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16
Edmund writes:

Hi Victor, “alot” does not exist, “allot” does. A lot can mean many things other than many; an item for sale at an auction; a piece of land, a parking space etc.

I just don’t understand “He was walking down the street ….”. Please explain

Comment provided August 18, 2013 at 3:23 AM

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17

Thanks for clearing that up. It’s a lot of my mind. Regarding the rest, its distinguishing (she said, and what she said. The (,) versa (;)…

Comment provided August 18, 2013 at 3:48 AM

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18
Edmund writes:

Hi Michelle, the classic use of the comma is in the title of the book Eats, shoots and leaves by Lynne Truss.

The Economist Style Guide says “use commas as an aid to understanding.” Furthermore it indicates “use two commas, or none at all, when inserting a clause in the middle of a sentence.”

The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook divides clauses into essential and nonessential. “A nonessential phrase must be set off by commas. An essential phrase must not be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.”

Thus, “A woman, without her man, is nothing.” Without the two commas you could just say “A woman is nothing without her man.” I think Penny has been very clever in constructing this sentence and using the alternative punctuation.

The AP Stylebook would differ about the commas and presumably recommend a clearer phrasing of the statement as in my example above but this is to miss the point that Penny makes of how you han transform a sentence just with punctuation.

Comment provided August 18, 2013 at 4:02 AM

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19

Please allow me to take the following as an example phrase, written in US-English. I have been made aware that book publishers don’t like (;) if overused. Hence I try to arrange my dialogue to fit with a comma.

“Ok,” the voice said, “We must assume the pursuer is still close by. Don’t go back to Tokyo until we speak again in twenty-four hours.” There was a click.

Comment provided August 18, 2013 at 4:41 AM

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20

Yes, Edmund, you got it right with the AP Style book, “The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook divides clauses into essential and nonessential. “A nonessential phrase must be set off by commas. An essential phrase must not be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.”

No commas are necessary in “A woman without her man is nothing,” because it its essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Comment provided August 18, 2013 at 4:54 PM

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21

Perhaps I can offer a clearer example of what I mean as far as essential and non-essential phrases.

“The student with the Russian surname aced the history test.”

The phrase “with the Russian surname” is essential to the meaning of the sentence. It identifies which student (from all other students)we are talking about, namely, the one with the Russian surname. Therefore, no commas are necessary.

If we set the phrase “with the Russian surname” in commas, we are indicating that it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, meaning, we can remove it from the sentence and the meaning would not be compromised. So, we are left with “The student aced the history test.” Which student, then?

Comment provided August 18, 2013 at 5:19 PM

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22
Gary Jacobsen writes:

Can you find the error?

“An English professor wrote the following words on the chalkboard and asked the students to punctuate it correctly:”

“Words” indicates plural. “It” is singular. Perhaps you should substitute “sentence” for “words.” You could also substitute “them” for “it.”

Comment provided August 18, 2013 at 6:09 PM

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23

Thanks guys,“
The student with the Russian surname aced the history test.” It confirms my thoughts with: “A woman is nothing without her man.” Both examples clearly define an essential sentence.
Thank you. I enjoy the blog.

Comment provided August 19, 2013 at 1:57 AM

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24

The improper use of punctuation, commas can change the meaning definitely. This is so good to learn..importantly for writers starting their journey in EzineArticles importantly.

Comment provided August 19, 2013 at 11:18 PM

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25
Douglas Midgley, JD writes:

This is an extremely helpful, informative, interesting, and educational article explaining the correct use of punctuation when writing American English. I don’t know how others feel, but to obtain the full benefit I will need to read it many times.

Comment provided August 20, 2013 at 9:48 AM

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26
Carmen writes:

Having had done some editing for awilhe now for people, I can see some who overuse commas, and others where one form of punctuation might better be used where others already are. One of the rules I break is this silly notion that you have to introduce your main character on the first page. I don’t think I’ll ever follow that rule.My two protagonists don’t even show up until chapter four. The first chapter starts fifteen years in the past. They’d have been eleven at the time, so…

Comment provided September 1, 2013 at 8:17 AM

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27
IPIA writes:

Great article and PDF. I think of Alfred Hitchcock and his advice to actors – something about being aware of the “dog’s feet”. He said this to emphasize that pause was often crucial. I find with punctuation, reading aloud is the key.

Comment provided December 28, 2013 at 1:51 AM

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28
Victor Scerri writes:

I just love IPIA comment; reading aloud does it for me too. Wishing all that can read and write best wishes for the new year as journey of journeys unfolds and shapes who we are.

Comment provided December 31, 2013 at 11:47 AM

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29

Useful tips and download.

Comment provided January 18, 2014 at 1:09 AM

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30
Schalk Lubbe writes:

These tips are very handy. Most of them I already knew, but there were a few ones that were new to me.

There’s one additional use of apostrophes that I often see, and it is normally in headings like “The 4 U’s of …”

Grammatically, I know the “U’s” is wrong because it has nothing to do with possession or contraction. But “The 4 Us of …” also looks funny … not to mention that it can be misinterpreted as “us.”

So what is the correct way around this problem?

Comment provided May 14, 2014 at 3:14 AM

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31

Yes, Shalk. The use of the apostrophe you gave as an example can definitely be confusing, and its correct usage is apparently debatable amongst writers. The general consensus for your example, “the 4U’s,” appears to be that no apostrophe is necessary with uncommon plurals of capitalized letters and numbers. So, plural forms such as “the 4Us” or “the 1990s” are apostrophe free! (Also see Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab). However, with regard to uncommon plural use in phrases or expressions (“mind your p’s and q’s” or “no if’s, and’s, or but’s”), many agree to use apostrophes to avoid confusion to the reader. Still, for the writer who can’t commit one way or another, using quotes or italics to bring attention to the uncommon plural form can also help to circumvent confusion to the reader.

Comment provided May 15, 2014 at 3:44 PM

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