Common Punctuation Errors and How to Avoid Them

Proper punctuation is vital for content readability. Misusing punctuation marks…

Proper punctuation is vital for content readability. Misusing punctuation marks will make your writing clumsy and unpleasant to the reader. It’s not difficult to avoid these mistakes.

With the right tips and some practice, you’re good to go! This article discusses the common punctuation errors and highlights how you can avoid them.

Common Punctuation Errors

Punctuation mistakes are common in written language, which is why we must pay attention to them and make sure we avoid them.

They are seen in nearly any writing and range from comma and apostrophe misuse to interchange of punctuations. Some of the punctuation mistakes commonly seen in writing are highlighted below:

1. Misuse of Apostrophes

An apostrophe is commonly used for two reasons—one, to form the possessive form of a noun, e.g., a dog’s bone. And two, to indicate a contraction, e.g., shouldn’t, couldn’t, isn’t.

A common misuse of the apostrophe is to pluralize nouns.


  • Incorrect: The house’s in this estate are beautiful.
  • Correct: The houses in this estate are beautiful.

Another misuse is in writing a possessive pronoun. Possessive pronouns, unlike possessive nouns, do not need an apostrophe.

  • Incorrect: The dog is beautiful. It’s eyes are charming.
  • Correct: The dog is beautiful. Its eyes are charming.
  • Incorrect: Is the purple bag your’s?
  • Correct: Is the purple bag yours?

2. Misuse of Comma

The comma is a commonly misused punctuation mark. Its absence or excessive use in writing creates a grammatically incorrect sentence that is difficult to understand.

The comma should be used in moderation to produce an appealing sentence. The correct use of commas prevents confusion and indicates relationships between ideas and sentence parts. Consider the examples below:

  • Incorrect: I bought a pair of shoes a video game and a guitar for my brother (absent of comma).
  • Incorrect: I bought, a pair of shoes, a video game, and, a guitar, for my brother (excessive use of comma).
  • Correct: I bought a pair of shoes, a video game, and a guitar for my brother.

3. Use of dashes and hyphens interchangeably.

The hyphen (-) and dash (—) are commonly used interchangeably. A common rule is to use the hyphen to link words that express a single idea. It is most frequently used to connect two words into a compound modifier, like part-time, blue-eyed, and well-behaved. On the other hand, the dash allows you to move to a different idea or thought.


  • Correct: Daniel is a part-time worker.
  • Incorrect: Daniel is a part — time worker.
  • Correct: I like the ice cream from the restaurant — it tastes delicious. But I prefer the chocolate kind — the milk isn’t perfect for me.
  • Incorrect: I like the ice cream from the restaurant-it tastes delicious. But I prefer the chocolate kind-the milk isn’t perfect for me.

4. Use of semicolons and colons interchangeably.

Semicolons are commonly used to connect two closely related independent clauses and emphasize their relationship. It’ll be utterly wrong to use a colon in place of a semicolon.

Colons are usually used to introduce a list, a quotation, or explain a previous statement. The statement after a colon is usually a summary, explanation, or interpretation of what comes before the colon.


  • Correct: I can’t go to the movies; I’m writing my final exams tomorrow.
  • Incorrect: I can’t go to the movies: I’m writing my final exams tomorrow.
  • Correct: I got three gifts for my birthday: a football, a computer game, and a wristwatch.
  • Incorrect: I got three gifts for my birthday; a football, a computer game, and a wristwatch.

5. Misuse of exclamation marks.

Another common punctuation error is the misuse of the exclamation mark. Exclamation marks are used to express strong emotions, such as anger, excitement, and astonishment. They are also used to create emphasis in writing.

An exclamation mark appropriately used can create a powerful impact in a text. However, when used excessively, it can overwhelm the reader and make them undermine the emotions behind your message. You must use exclamation marks in moderation if you want to be taken seriously.


  • Incorrect: Wow! Your dress is gorgeous! Where did you get it! It must have cost a fortune!
  • Correct: Wow! Your dress is gorgeous! Where did you get it? It must have cost a fortune.

6. Unnecessary Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are used for dialogue and to state the exact words of a speaker or writer.

Unnecessary quotation marks serve no purpose; it will be best to leave them out. The use of quotation marks can also change the meaning of a sentence.

For example,

  • Correct: “Did anyone see my notebooks,” Mary asked.
  • Correct: According to Joe, “Illiteracy is man’s biggest problem.”
  • Incorrect: Mary will submit our assignment to ‘the course instructor.”
person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

To Wrap Up

The dangers and impropriety of punctuation mistakes lie in their misuse. Misuse of punctuation marks often confuses the text’s original meaning and makes writing challenging to comprehend.

Some of the common errors in punctuation and how to avoid them have been highlighted in this article. By taking note of the rules and applying them, you will successfully improve your writing.

Frequently asked questions

How do you avoid punctuation mistakes?

  • Don’t confuse “it’s” with “it.”.
  • Do not use an apostrophe to pluralize nouns.
  • Do not write run-on sentences.
  • Don’t overuse commas
  • Not interchangeable dashes and hyphens.
  • Use semicolons and commas interchangeably.

What is punctuation error definition?

1 Use of symbols not belonging to the alphabetic alphabet of a writing system to indicate aspects of intonation and meaning not elsewhere conveyed by the written language. The symbols used in this context.

Which is the most important punctuation marks?

1. A Full Stop [.]. The strongest punctuation mark (in reading aloud or silently) is at the end of a sentence that makes the most definite pause (in either reading alas or silent).

What are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar?

14 punctuation mark names are commonly used in English grammar that children learn and understand in primary school. Period, questionmark, exclamation point, comma, semicolon, colon, dash, hyphen, parentheses, brackets, braces, apostrophes, quotation marks, and .

How wrong punctuation affects the meaning of a sentence?

For instance, overused or missing punctuation marks can alter meaning and confuse the reader. If you misunderstand ambiguous sentences that are hard to understand, your life is at risk. If you have unclear instructions regarding mechanical equipment, or medication packaging, you may encounter fatal errors.

What are punctuation errors called?

You may also refer to it as: error, usage error, grammar error, mistake, bad grammar. The Grammatical errors are usually distinguished from (though sometimes confused with) factual mistakes, logical fallacies, misspellings, typographical errors, and incorrect punctuation.

What is an example of incorrect punctuation?

I went home and ate dinner, but I did something wrong. Too many commas can also be wrong grammatically. As an example, a comma splice occurs when you combine two independent clauses with a single commas instead of a double commea.

Is punctuation a grammatical error?

We can explain our ideas to our readers with both grammar and punctuation, but neither are the same. Punctuation marks are symbols used to clarify meanings, question marks, exclamation points, periods, etc. Grammar is the structure of a language.

What are the 14 most common punctuation marks?

Grammar uses 14 punctuation marks for the most part. It includes periods, question marks, exclamation points, commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, hyphens, parentheses, brackets, braces, apostrophes,.

What are the punctuation rules?

  • Equal emphasis is given to semicolons.
  • A colony must appear at the end of a clause.
  • Parallels must be used in all punctuations. As a result, when a main clause is interrupted with a comma or a dash, it must be interrupted with the same punctuation marks at the beginning and end of it.

What are punctuation marks and examples?


What are the most common punctuation errors?

  • Inputting periods in the wrong place.
  • Commas placed wrongly
  • Semicolons in place of commas.
  • Misplaced apostrophes
  • Misusing “it’s”
  • Incorrect quotation marks

What punctuation mark should be avoided in writing an essay?

Exclamation marks are most frequently used in all kinds of writing. When it comes to academic writing, an exclamation mark should never appear, unless used by an author who used one.

What are three dots called?

What are those dots? All three of them are an ellipsis. As in “a writer who uses lots of ellipses,” ellipanses also go by these terms: ellipusis points, points of a elliponsis point, suspension points.

What is the commonest of all punctuation marks?

The period is most common among these three and almost every sentence has at least one. Commas are commonly used in sentences. In some sentences, there are a lot of commas while others have none. So, although the comma is quite common, it is hard to say whether it is more common than the period.

Common Punctuation Errors and How to Avoid Them

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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