In the United States, today is National Punctuation Day. I almost missed it. Nevertheless, I did use dozens of periods (full stops), many commas, several colons, a few dashes, and even a semicolon in a piece I wrote this afternoon.
How about you? Did you write today? If so, did you use punctuation confidently or timidly?
If you struggle with which punctuation mark goes where, here are some steps to increase your confidence:
- Visit the National Punctuation Day site for a concise review of commas, colons, and more. Then practice using one mark each day.
- Review my punctuation pointers on this site. Email me any questions about punctuation.
- Take a quiz on grammar and punctuation on our Syntax Training website. Congratulate yourself on what you already know.
- Complete some exercises on the Capital Community College website.
- Complete a few lessons in the archives of Daily Grammar.
- Drop by Grammar Hell and enjoy illustrations of incorrect punctuation and usage.
- Purchase a small, easy-to-use guide such as Jan Venolia’s Write Right! Slip it in your pocket and study it in quiet moments.
- Pick up a detailed style manual such as The Gregg Reference Manual or The Associated Press Stylebook. Look up the topics you haven’t mastered yet. (For example, when is it correct to use ‘s and s’ and just s?)
- If you can travel to Seattle, take my class The Keys to Error-Free Writing on October 4.
It’s easy to go through life without celebrating or even knowing about National Punctuation Day. But it’s impossible to write well without knowing about those little marks it honors. If punctuation is not yet your friend, take one of the steps above.
National Punctuation Day. It doesn’t require a phone call home, a flowery greeting card, or a bright bouquet of flowers–just a healthy respect for the em dash, the apostrophe, and an occasional pair of parentheses.