Don’t you hate it when you make a mistake in an essay, and the reader easily catches it? Bet your teacher does too. You may have memorized all the English rules, but sometimes we get sloppy with our writing and make common punctuation mistakes that take away from the quality of our writing. To help you avoid this issue entirely, read our list of the most common punctuation mistakes in essays and how to fix them.
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The comma splice joins two independent clauses with a comma. Correcting this error means replacing the comma with a semicolon or period. Also, connect the two sentences with a word such as and or because or restructure the sentence. Here is an example:
Example: I hate writing essays, they always take too long to finish.
Corrected: I hate writing essays; they always take too long to finish.
Corrected: I hate writing essays because they always take too long to finish.
Run-on sentences occur when two or more independent clauses (i.e., complete sentences) are connected without proper punctuation. Here is an example:
“I ate some cake my mother bought me for my birthday it was chocolate.”
This sentence has two independent clauses: “I ate some cake,” and “my mother bought me for my birthday.”We know this because each clause can stand alone as a sentence. However, the sentence is so confusing that it is hard to tell where one clause ends, and the next begins. The easiest way to fix run-on sentences is to use a period (.) or semicolon (;).
In the example above, you could write two separate sentences: “I ate some cake. My mother bought me for my birthday.” Alternately, you could write them as one sentence with a semicolon: “I ate some cake; my mother bought me for my birthday.”
A comma can also join two independent clauses into one sentence. However, a comma before the conjunction must appear, and the words following the conjunction must stand alone as a complete thought. For example, “I ate some cake, but my mother bought me for my birthday.”
Pronouns can be confusing because they do not always refer to a single noun. In the sentence “In her handbag, she had her phone and her keys,” the pronoun “her” could refer to any of three nouns: (1) handbag, (2) phone, or (3) keys. A reader would need to look at the context to figure out which noun is referred to by each pronoun.
A pronoun is ambiguous if it refers to more than one noun. When you use an ambiguous pronoun, your reader will have trouble figuring out what you are referring to. To prevent this problem, make sure that pronouns refer back to a single noun in your sentence.
Dangling modifiers are words that modify a word that is not clearly stated in the sentence. A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes something else. Modifiers should always be placed next to the word they are intended to describe.
For example, “Having given up on her dreams, the apartment looked like a sad place to live.”
This sentence suggests that the apartment was responsible for giving up on Maria’s dreams. To fix this problem, we can move the modifier closer to what it modifies:
Correct: “Having given up on her dreams, Maria looked like she lived in a sad place.”
Sentence fragments can be useful for stylistic reasons but not for academic writing. When struggling with this in your writing, try reading each sentence aloud when editing. Check whether it sounds complete.
When a sentence starts with a subordinating conjunction (e.g., because, while), it might be a fragment, therefore, ensure it is attached to an independent clause with both a subject and a predicate.
Example: Because I was late for work.
In this example, we do not know what happened because the writer got to work late. Did her boss fire her? Did she end up working overtime? This is one of those cases where adding more context helps clarify the thought process.
Correct: Because I was late for work, my boss gave me extra projects.
In conclusion, punctuation is important to catch the flow for essay writers. If you want it to be persuasive, make sure your reader can follow what you are trying to convey. Check out these commas and their usage in a sentence to produce the best results in your essay by determining which best fits.