Punctuation marks have the power to change the meaning of a sentence. Whether it’s your blogs or press releases, twitter updates and even product descriptions. A small punctuation error here and there can change the entire meaning of your sentence. From wrongly placing a comma, an exclamation mark or a harmless hyphen to putting a question mark at the end where a full stop would have sufficed and saved your grace – an incorrect punctuation mark can make more than just an expression go wrong.
Important punctuation and formatting rules to live by:
- Quotation Marks – Important quotes, facts and references are always written inside quotation marks. Don’t use them to highlight just anything that you feel is important in the sentence. Also, a punctuation mark in the quoted sentence should always be inside the quotation marks. For example, “I am hungry,” Samantha said and not “I am hungry”, Samantha said. The former is the correct way to use quotes.
- Semicolons – These are not necessarily required in copywriting. Use of semicolons should be minimal when creating a copy for the web.
- Exclamation Marks – Limit yourself for the use of exclamation marks. Never use too many of them in the same paragraph. A single post should not have more than two exclamation marks. Somehow, the writers feel that excessive use of exclamation marks makes you sound excited, urgent and full of gusto which is not always the case, is it? Even if it is, using too many exclamation marks will only make your copy appear like an SOS for help.
- Capitalization – There is absolutely no need to capitalize unnecessary words in a post. You have to be careful of this one especially in the headlines. Do not capitalize words like of, on, to etc. in the headlines. Also, never capitalize keywords in a post to highlight them. Important keywords are better hyperlinked than highlighted. The latter looks like an old school SEO technique. Stuffing keywords and capitalizing them in the post is a big NO while creating a copy.
- Commas – Commas are used to express pause between clauses. A comma should be used according to the rules of its existence. Never be afraid to use commas in your sentences especially if they’re pretty long. If it fits the sentence, use it. Just a small rule to take care of. Don’t put a comma before ‘and’. For example, blue, purple and grey instead of blue, purple, and grey.
- Hyperlinks and Hyphenation – Hyperlink important links and keywords in your post as a rule. Don’t add too many hyperlinks in a post as it may look like spam content. A link should be properly defined and cleanly linked. Also, use a hyphen wherever required – separate words with a hyphen that are either combination words or neologisms. And remember, e-mail is always separated with a hyphen.
Writing a sentence with correctly placed punctuation marks is like offering a free meal to someone who is hungry. As it will make for a savouring reading experience. I’m sure you would want your readers to enjoy what you’ve written rather than baffle their minds with a confusing maze of words!
Even if your post is not an extraordinary one, it would still be liked if it is correctly put together. Make use of correct grammar and punctuation to leave your readers wanting for more.