Punctuation – How to Improve Your Writing Skills

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Punctuation is an extremely important part of literacy. Without it, sentences don’t form properly and the point of a text can be lost in a block of words. In addition, punctuation signifies the flow of a sentence or paragraph; it allows you to get a feel for a passage, and can accentuate key points. Here, we’re going to look at how to understand punctuation and avoid simple mistakes.

Punctuation Marks and Devices – How to Improve Your Writing Skills

In order to have an understanding of punctuation, you need to understand what all of the punctuation marks mean. Most of the punctuation marks are simple to understand, so they will be summarised in the table on the following pages. Here, we’ll tackle some of the more difficult punctuation marks.

Paragraphs – How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Paragraphs are used to break up larger pieces of text. Generally speaking, a new paragraph is needed when the text switches to a new idea or theme. There are no set rules on how long a paragraph should be: sometimes they will only be a couple of lines long, but on other occasions a longer paragraph may be necessary.

Good paragraphing skills form the bedrock for strong flow and sentence structure, since they allow you to separate your ideas. In many ways, a good paragraph will take the same form as a good story or essay, but on a smaller scale.

Firstly, a topic sentence is needed to set the stage for the content of the paragraph. These topic sentences serve as a summary, so that the reader knows where they stand in the paragraph.

After the topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph should work to reinforce the initial statement of the topic sentence.

Finally, the end of the paragraph might include a conclusion sentence which briefly sums up its focus.

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Colons (:) – How to Improve Your Writing Skills

For the most part, colons only have one use: to introduce a list. This applies to an in-text list, such as:

There were three entrances to the hall: the double doors leading from the lobby, the side entrance from a main corridor and the fire door leading onto the staff car park.

Colons are also used to introduce bulleted lists:

There were three entrances to the hall:
• Double doors leading from the lobby;
• Side entrance from the main corridor;
• Fire door leading onto the staff car park.

Colons can also be used to introduce a quotation:

However, the inspector thought differently: ‘Students clearly don’t know how to behave in lessons.’

Finally, colons can be used to add an explanation to a statement:

There was no reason to believe that the students were incapable: they had all completed their homework and performed well in the tests, but were too shy to raise their hand to answer questions.

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Semi-Colons (;) – How to Improve Your Writing Skills

The semi-colon is very rarely necessary. Its role in language is to link two related sentences together. Generally speaking, it is used to make a text more varied or assist with the flow, but it isn’t necessary. Many accomplished writers will never use semi-colons because it isn’t part of their style, while others may use them frequently.

The first use of a semi-colon is to join two related sentences together:

The understanding of the staff was that students were more than capable of completing the science test; in fact, many had already sat mock exams and performed well.

These two parts of the sentence could have formed separate sentences:

The understanding of the staff was that students were more than capable of completing the science test. In fact, many had already sat mock exams and performed well.

By joining them with a semi-colon, it’s clear that they relate to one another.

The second use of a semi-colon is to mark the components of a list:

There were three entrances to the hall:
• Double doors leading from the lobby;
• Side entrance from the main corridor;
• Fire door leading onto the staff car park.

Excluding the final point, each item on the bulleted list is suffixed with a semi-colon.

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