Introduction to Punctuation

Critique the use of common punctuation marks

Now that we’ve learned about the different types of words, it’s time to learn about punctuation. These little marks can often be the cause of a lot of heartache and headaches. Errors in punctuation can often have unintended meanings. For example, consider the difference the comma makes in the following sentences:

  • Let’s eat, Grandpa.
  • Let’s eat Grandpa.

However, punctuation doesn’t exist simply to cause problems; in fact, it was created to help communication. These marks were invented to guide readers through passages—to let them know how and where words relate to one another. When you learn the rules of punctuation, you equip yourself with an extensive toolset, so you can better craft language to communicate the exact message you want.

a collection of different punctuation marks, including parentheses, brackets, an exclamation point, an apostrophe, quotation marks, and a period.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this module, different style guides have slightly different rules for grammar. This is especially true when it comes to punctuation. This section will cover the MLA rules for punctuation, but we’ll also make note of rules from other styles when they’re significantly different.

What You Will Learn to Do

  • Critique the use of end punctuation: periods, question marks, exclamation marks
  • Critique the use of commas
  • Critique the use of semicolons and colons
  • Critique the use of hyphens and dashes
  • Critique the use of apostrophes and quotation marks
  • Critique the use of brackets, parentheses, and ellipses