RedPen Editing

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One of the essential editing tasks is to make sure that all punctuation is correct.Here’s a brief reminder of what it’s all about.

Punctuation marks are symbols included within or at the end of a sentence.

  • A full stop [.] indicates the end a sentence; it’s time to stop.
  • A comma [,] suggests the reader needs to pause, and take in how words either side of the comma are grouped.
  • A colon [:] tells us there is a list coming; it’s followed by some examples of what’s come before.
  • A semi-colon [;] separates two equals: sentences that could have stood alone but work better side by side; or items within a list.
  • Exclamation marks show shock!
  • Question marks indicate the end of a  question. That’s obvious?

Well placed and carefully chosen punctuation marks provide signposts for a reader – when to breathe! – and this aids their understanding. Incorrect punctuation, like typos, gives a poor impression of the author, and can adversely affect the reading experience for the audience. At best, it’s an irritant; at worst, it can result in misinformation as changing punctuation can alter meaning. Here is the classic example:

Woman without her man is nothing.

Woman, without her man, is nothing.

Woman! Without her, man is nothing.

EDIT CHECK: Checking simple sentences for correct punctuation

We write words and group them together to form a sentence.

  • Sentences always start with a capital letter.
  • Sentences end either with a full stop, an exclamation mark [!] or a question mark [?].

Look at every separate sentence and make sure that the front and back ends comply with these basic rules.

Further checking techniques for longer, more complex, sentences which require additional punctuation marks will be explained in another post.