When you are reading, it is important to pay attention to the punctuation marks that are used as they can change the meaning of a sentence.
Here is a table with some common punctuation marks and a brief explanation of their use:
|.||full stop||Used to end a sentence.|
|,||comma||Divides some types of sentence into clauses. Follows some discourse markers e.g. however, at first etc. Can be used before some conjunctions in the middle of a sentence such as ‘and’.|
|;||semi-colon||Separates two clauses which are closely related in meaning. Can separate clauses which form part of a list.|
|:||colon||Often used before a list of clauses.|
|?||question mark||Used at the end of a question.|
|!||exclamation mark||Used after orders or warnings in direct speech.|
|“||inverted commas (also known as speech marks)||Inverted commas show that what is written has been directly spoken by someone.|
How does punctuation change meaning?
Here are some more examples of how changing the punctuation can completely change the meaning…
a. When I sing well, ladies feel sick.
(My good singing makes ladies feel sick)
b. When I sing, well ladies feel sick.
(My singing makes healthy ladies feel unwell)
a. Watch out – man eating apes!
(the man eats apes)
b. Watch out – man-eating apes!
(the apes eat men)
a. We order merchandise and sell the products.
(We do 2 things)
b. We order, merchandise and sell the products.
(We do 3 things)
a. You will be required to work twenty four-hour shifts.
(You work for a short time)
b. You will be required to work twenty-four-hour shifts.
(You work for a very long time)
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