PUNCTUATION is very important in communication. It is an undeniable fact that when we talk, we use all kinds of body language to help our listeners understand what we want to communicate. For example, you scowl, wave your hands, shake your head, and lift your eyebrows to show what you mean. To scowl is to frown in an angry or bad-tempered way or to grimace at. However, when we write these same words, we cannot help our readers with facial expressions.
Instead we have to rely on punctuation marks to show them where to stop, pause, question or exclaim. We are simply talking about the use of end marks like the full stop, at times referred to as the period, the question mark and the exclamation point. Learners have taken punctuation marks for granted, forgetting that failure to use them correctly results in loss of marks. Examiners have raised complaints over learners failing to use end mark, particularly the full stop or period.
The punctuation marks that show where a sentence ends are called end marks. When do you use the full stop/period? Use a full stop or period at the end of a sentence, statement or request. Your bags are in the car. Use a period at the end of most imperative sentences. An imperative sentence is a sentence that gives a command or makes a request. Please be quiet. Use a full stop or period after an abbreviation or after an initial or to show that some letters at the end of the word are missing.
For example: Oct. (October. Full stops are not usually added when the abbreviation ends with the last letter of the full word. For example, Rd (Road) Dr (Doctor). Use a question mark at the end of an interrogative sentence. An interrogative sentence asks a question. Where are you going? Use an exclamation mark at the end of an explanatory sentence. An explanatory sentence shows strong feeling such as: anger, joy, surprise, sorrow, or urgency. Examples showing such strong feelings: That’s wonderful news! Fire!
Use an exclamation point after a strong interjection. An interjection is one or more words that show strong feeling. Examples: Never! Unbelievable! Help! When an interjection is followed by a sentence, the sentence may end with any of the three end marks. Oh no! I have passed the turn. Help! How do I escape from this? Wow! That was close! We now return to the beginning of sentences and discuss using capitalisation. Capitalisation is described as one way to call attention to important, meaningful words.
The most familiar uses of capitalisation are at the beginning of sentence and for proper nouns, like names. The other uses of capitalisation most often distinguish general nouns from specific ones. In general, the words that are capitalised fall into the following categories: names of people, personal titles, nationalities, and religions, geographical names and structures, organisations, historical events, and first words and titles.
Capitalise proper nouns and adjectives. We have previously defined a proper noun as the name of a specific person, place, thing, or idea. Proper nouns are capitalised. Common nouns are not. A proper adjective is an adjective formed by a proper noun. It is also capitalised. Examples: Common noun — book, pen, cow, author. Proper Noun — Charles, Sandy, Sihle, Ndabezinhle. Proper Adjective — Elizabethan. In addition to these, capitalise people’s names and initials that stand for names.
Examples: Henry Treece, T P Moyo, Victoria S Jones. Always capitalise the pronoun I. I read this magazine last week. Capitalise all words referring to God and religious scriptures such as: the Lord, the Bible, Jesus Christ, Allah, the Koran, and the Torah. As always capitalise the names of months, days, and holidays but not the names of seasons: January, Monday, Good Friday, summer. Capitalise time abbreviations like B.C, A.D, A.M, and P.M. The general meeting starts at 10:00 A. M.
Use of the comma. Use a comma after every item in a series except the last. A series consists of three or more items of the same kind. Example: He grew tomatoes, carrots, cabbages and spinach in his garden. Commas are used to represent a brief pause in a long sentence. Teachers should not only be tolerant, they should also be patient, kind and understanding. Commas are used in the listing of adjectives that describe the same noun.
For example, the route was long, meandering, bumpy. Commas are also used before question tags. She arrives today, doesn’t she? A comma can be used to separate the speaker from the actual words spoken. Example: The head said, “Be serious with your studies.” When do you use the apostrophe? Apostrophes are used with “s” to show ownership or possession. Examples: Ted’s watch. Pretty’s dress. Note: The (‘) between the noun and the “s’ when the noun is singular.
The (‘) comes after the “s” in plural nouns and in personal names that end with “s”. Examples: the puppies’ meal. Jones’ mother. Use apostrophe (‘) in contractions or short forms, to show that some letters are missing. Examples: Didn’t (did not), I’m (I am), Aren’t (are not). Correct punctuation is the integral part of writing complete sentences. Remember a sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought.
A sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with either a period (full stop), a question mark or an explanation point.
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