The main function of punctuation is to provide a link between words, parts of sentences and sentences. Some punctuation signs, such as the apostrophe (‘), also play a more specific grammatical role (e.g., showing possession). It is important to place punctuation marks carefully, as this can affect the meaning of your text.
Consider, for example, the differences in meaning between:
A full stop is often used to separate sentences. The first word of these sentences should start with a capital letter:
A semicolon is often used to separate sections of a sentence that make sense on their own (often described as ‘independent clauses’). No capitalization is needed:
For more details, watch this short video on semicolons.
A comma usually links words or different parts of a sentence:
A colon (:) is most commonly used before a list of items or before an explanation.
For more details, watch this video on the differences between colons, commas and semicolons.
►The main function of the apostrophe is to show possession.
The apostrophe is placed before possessive ‘s’ to show one possessor:
means the same as
means the same as
►The apostrophe is also used to show a letter has been omitted:
can be re-written as
N.B. In academic writing, you should avoid the abbreviated form (1), which is considered less formal.
♦Sometimes the apostrophe is informally used to form the plural of nouns E.g.
TV’s, potato’s and computer’s.
♦Please note that ALL plural forms using the apostrophe are incorrect.
♦The grammatically correct forms for the examples above are TVs, potatoes and computers.
Still not sure? Watch this short video on using the apostrophe.
To download a PDF copy of the Punctuation checklist, please click the link below.