Punctuation marks in English Language

Students march against early child marriages in Harare recently

Students march against early child marriages in Harare recently

Vuso Mhlanga

Writing clearly and straight to the point is an art. It is an elaborate skill that has to be learnt.In the tool box of language are various punctuation tools that help in achieving the intended objective of writing.

Punctuation marks ensure coherence and give form and beauty to language the same way a craftsmen employs his tools and skills to produce a thing of beauty. Nothing is more beautiful than a beautiful piece of writing that bears the true marks of a finesse in execution of punctuating marks such as: The Period(.), The Colon(:), The Semi- colon(;) and many others.

Sentences, which are the building blocks of any writing, are given meaning mainly by punctuation, so learning punctuation will gradually help us to write effective creative essays.

The period or full stop is the most common tool in punctuation. Usually it is used to show the end of a complete thought as you have seen from the sentences we have written so far. A period can also be used to show an abbreviation. In this instance, the period comes after the abbreviation. For example, Gen. in short for General, A.D. for Anno Domini.

The semi colon is also very popular as a punctuation mark. The semicolon is a stronger imperative to pause when reading a sentence than a full stop. A semicolon is usually used between two independent clauses that are not separated by conjunctions such as and, yet and so on.

The following statement illustrates that: David’s father has been concerned with the academic welfare of his son; he went to meet the teacher.

A semicolon can also be used where independent closes are joined by linking devices such as, however, besides as the following statement aptly illustrates- John did everything he could to prepare for the exam; however, the exam was still challenging and he failed.

Related to the semicolon (and sometimes confused) with it is the Colon. The Colon serves many purposes but notably, to prepare the reader for a very long list to come. An example- The principal highlighted many practical steps that lead to success in the exam: discipline, thorough reading, getting help from teachers and going through past exam questions as a guide. Secondly, a colon is used in the salutation of a formal letter.

For example, Dear Mr Maravanyika: Thirdly before a quotation. An example, I presume, will do .The chairman made the following heartening statement: “This is a day we decide for ourselves our destiny. The future of your children, and most importantly, the future of this beloved nation of ours are hinged on the vote we will cast tomorrow.”

Now try inserting a colon in the following statements.

1. The teacher emphasised to her students to bring to the next lesson the following a pair of scissors, a pencil, a marker, glue and a thread.

2. At the party everyone enjoyed the delicacies potatoes, rice, stewed and seasoned beef, lamb and a concoction of fruit salads.

I am sure you have mastered the answers. Let us just insert the colon in the statements already given above, just to be sure and to retain the information.

1. The teacher emphasised to her students to bring to the next lesson the following: a pair of scissors, a pencil, a marker, glue and a thread.

2. At the party everyone enjoyed the delicacies: potatoes, rice, stewed and seasoned beef, lamb and a concoction of salads.

Let us move on to parenthesis or brackets ( ). This punctuation mark is used to enclose information which may not been considered essential but is important in bringing out the full flavor of a sentence.

For instance: Mrs. Chivige (a very cordial and well experienced woman with a degree in English from University of Zimbabwe) will be our teacher in English Language and our patron in the debate club. Make it a habit, when necessary to employ the use of parenthesis, especially in non-formal writing. It will help in furnishing other information that we may enjoy knowing simply for satisfying our curiosity.

The use of capital letters is also one of the most important areas of punctuation. It serves a lot of purposes. We insert a capital letter on the first word in every sentence. We also make use of capital letters when writing proper nouns. Proper nouns are real names of people and places, and objects. For example, Victoria Falls.

Capital letters may also be used to show titles of important persons. Titles such as: President and Doctor deserve capital letters especially when the titles are followed by proper nouns. For instance, Doctor David Parirenyatwa is the Zimbabwean Minister of Health and Child Welfare.

The exclamation mark (!) is often used to show or reveal emotions or feelings. It may be used in a sentence as an Imperative or a command.

Person may say: “Put down the tool!” The given statement also has assumed a new tone because of our insertion of the Exclamation mark; the statement now sounds so authoritative, as a command. It also shows surprise like in, “Oh my God!”

Make it your aim then, to know all the tools in your language toolbox and to use them so effectively that you see the beauty of language.

 

Mhlanga Vuso is an experienced teacher in English Language and Advanced Level Literature in English. He can be contacted on the following platforms: [email protected]/0778674863.

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