“What would your sentences be without us?” ― How these tiny symbols make a BIG impact in your copies [Tuesdays: “Write with the Pen of the Masters”]
Do you sometimes get confused about the proper usage of these punctuation marks?
If you do, don’t worry! You’re not the only one who experiences that.
Here’s good news: A lot of style books are available to guide us when it comes to using these punctuations.
One of those books?
William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s “The Elements of Style!”
To give you a brief background about the book…
“The Elements of Style” is an American English writing style guide that was published in numerous editions.
The original version of the book was created by William Strunk Jr., an English professor at Cornell University in 1918.
41 years later, in 1959, American writer E.B. White expanded the content of the book and since then, “The Elements of Style” was credited to the two authors.
In 2011, the Time magazine recognized the book as “one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923.”
That shows how “The Elements of Style” is worth the read, especially for copywriters, content writers, storytellers, and even marketers!
So… what are some of the rules of punctuation usages you can learn from the book?
Add ’s or ’ to create the possessive form of nouns.
For nouns that do not end with the letter “s,” add ‘s to form possessive nouns.
The dog’s meal
Meanwhile, for ancient proper names, plural nouns, and words that end in “-s,” “-es,” “-is,” or “-us”, there’s no need to add “s” after the apostrophe (‘).
Pronominal possessives such as hers, his, its, theirs, yours, and ours do not require an apostrophe and “s”―they’re already possessive in their original form.
In the case of indefinite pronouns like everyone, somebody, nobody, etc., adding ‘s is required to transform them into possessive indefinite pronouns.
Lastly, be careful not to commit one of the common errors made by some writers: Using “it’s” for “its” and vice versa.
Take note that the first one is a contraction that means “it is,” while the second one is a possessive pronoun.
It’s a wise dog because it knows how to communicate with its owner.
In a series of 3 or more terms with a single conjunction, use the serial comma a.k.a. the Oxford comma.
While book authors Strunk Jr. and White say there’s nothing wrong with omitting a comma before a conjunction that introduces the last term from a list, most American English style guides often recommend using the Oxford comma.
Red, white, blue, gold, silver, and copper.
He opened the letter, read it, and took down notes from its content.
She’s thinking about whether she’ll take up a business degree in college, rest for a year from studying, or find a part-time job and not continue schooling anymore.
Observe the statements above. Do you find anything common between the three?
The Oxford comma―the last comma before the conjunctions “and” and “or!”
Applying this in your write-ups is recommended by many writers because this comma offers efficiency and clarity, alleviates confusion, and makes reading things easier.
Use the Oxford comma in your drafts and see how it will help make a list of points or series of terms more organized!
Use commas to enclose parenthetical expressions in a sentence.
The best way to explore and travel around a country, unless you’re pressed for time, is on foot.
In the sentence above, the phrase “unless you’re pressed for time” is an example of a parenthetical expression.
[Parenthetical Expressions: Words or phrases that are essential to a sentence but have to be separated in some way so as not to affect the original meaning of a statement.]
Such phrases should be enclosed between two commas so readers will easily understand that the expressions serve to add additional information to your sentence or modify the noun it follows (as in the case of appositives).
Dates should be punctuated as follows:
June 1, 2021
Thursday, June 3, 2021
However, if the format of the date is:
3 June 2021
… then it’s customary to omit the comma since the word “June” separates the numbers.
Abbreviations such as i.e., e.g., and etc., abbreviations for academic degrees, and titles that follow a proper name are parenthetical and should be punctuated accordingly.
All letters, packages, etc., should be placed here.
Horace Fulsome, Ph.D., presided over the meeting.
Rachel Simmonds, Attorney
On the other hand, a comma shouldn’t be used to separate a noun from a restrictive term of identification.
[Restrictive Terms or Clauses: Words or phrases that modify a preceding noun in an essential manner.]
The novelist Jane Austen
Alexander the Great
William the Conqueror
Note: Although the words “Senior” and “Junior,” abbreviated as “Sr.” and “Jr.,” are commonly regarded as parenthetical, logic suggests that they are restrictive of a person’s name and therefore not in need of a comma.
William Strunk Jr.
Robert Downey Jr.
Harry Connick Sr.
Avoid combining independent clauses using a comma.
Independent clauses joined by a comma makes for a mouthful sentence or paragraph.
It’s like reading a whole block of text in one breath and even with the use of commas, the statement is still tiring to read.
You don’t want readers to experience that while reading your copies, do you?
To avoid that scenario, here’s one thing you can do:
If two or more clauses are grammatically complete, use either a semicolon (;) or period (.) instead of a comma (,).
Semicolon – Used to signify a close relation between two independent clauses that are not joined by a conjunction.
Period – Used to end a declarative sentence.
Take a look at the sentences below:
Louis Anderson’s works are entertaining; they are full of inspiring ideas.
Louis Anderson’s works are entertaining. They are full of inspiring ideas.
The formats above are equally correct because either way, the thought of the sentence with two independent clauses remains complete and unchanged.
It’s up to you to assess whether you’ll use semicolons or periods to separate these types of clauses.
Refrain from using periods in place of commas.
Contrary to the previous point, it’s important to keep in mind that you should NOT use periods to replace commas in a sentence.
Remember: Periods are used to signify the end of a declarative sentence. If one of the sentences you separated with this punctuation sounded fragmented or incomplete, this may result in awkwardly written copy.
She is an accomplished speaker. Coming home from Liverpool to New York.
First sentence? Check.
Second sentence? Nah.
What does “Coming home from Liverpool to New York” mean?
The thought is incomplete!
To fix that sentence, you should use a comma instead of a period.
She is an accomplished speaker, coming home from Liverpool to New York.
See? By doing so, the sentence became easier to understand!
In writing copies, make sure you avoid committing this error so readers will not misinterpret the message you’re trying to convey.
According to William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White in “The Elements of Style” book, rules 3, 4, and 5 cover the most important principles that govern punctuations.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should take the topics discussed in points 1 and 2 lightly! As a writer, you must also be familiar with the basic rules about possessive nouns and pronouns as well as the importance of using the Oxford comma.
Once you master these points, you’ll be extra careful in composing your sentences and prevent writing copies in a clipped or fragmented manner.
Keep these rules in mind to the point that their application becomes second nature to you as a writer!
It’s in taking note of these tips that you’ll be able to write clearer and more organized copies that effectively get your message across―whether that’s for marketing, storytelling, researching, etc.
Apply these rules in your writing process and master the art of using punctuations properly!
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Tuesdays: Write with the Pen of the Masters”
Who doesn’t find content writing to be a skill that requires a lot of practice and effort?
In fact, many people may even find copywriting very intimidating.
However, you can be a good writer as long as you have the right tools. You won’t always get things right the first time, but with enough time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it!
When you write a copy for any brand or for your company, your aim is to make an impact and…
…to get people to remember.
Getting people to remember means getting consumers to buy your product or to avail of your service.
And when you get your content to deliver the results you want, THAT is a great copy!
Every Tuesday, we publish content based on tips and insights from the masters of content writing, copywriting, and storytelling.
Become more familiar with ways to write great copy that helps you gain ROI from your efforts, drive profitability, and achieve your business goals.
Learn time-tested tactics that better capture the attention of your target audience, and maximize the benefits of great copywriting.
Hope you found this week’s insights interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Write with the Pen of the Masters!”
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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