Today is National Punctuation Day. To celebrate the occasion, the editors of PR News came up with their top punctuation pet peeves. Here are their favorite gaffes to avoid. I picked up the following wholesale from their post and cut it a little to make it easier for you, my dear readers.
1. Double space: Yes, the space is a punctuation point. Don’t wear it out. There only needs to be one space after the end of the sentence. (Every major style guide prescribes a single space after a period, according to Slate.)
2. Its vs. it’s: This is an easy mistake to make, and we’re all guilty of sending out an incorrect tweet in a moment of excitement or fury. For the record, per the famous Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), here’s the proper usage:
Its and it’s are not the same thing. It’s is a contraction for “it is” and its is a possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to it.” It’s raining out = it is raining out. A simple way to remember this rule is the fact that you don’t use an apostrophe for the possessive his or hers, so don’t do it with its.
3. Misplaced semicolons: Semicolons can be used three ways according to OWL.
- To join two independent clauses when the second clause restates the first or when the two clauses are of equal emphasis.
- To connect two independent clauses when the second clause begins with a conjunctive adverb or a transition.
- To join elements of a series when individual items of the series already include commas.
Don’t throw these around willy nilly. They have very specific guidelines for use.
4. Gratuitous use of quotation marks: Using quotation marks to designate something as ironic or novel has the official seal of approval from the folks at OWL. However, using it around every other word is annoying, difficult on your readers’ eyes and has the opposite intended effect.
5. Overuse of the exclamation point: The exclamation point has no place in professional writing. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” Heed his advice.