Essay Proofreading Guidelines: Common Punctuation Errors

So many students when writing, pay so much attention to the quality of content, that they forget about the quality of punctuation. Just as spelling, and word use is important, so is grammar. One quick way to tell if there might be an issue with the grammar, is if it looks right, there is usually something wrong with it. And if it looks wrong, it is usually right. But even this is not always true. Here are a few guides to help with checking the work before turning them in.

  1. Commas
  2. Quotations
  3. Colons and semicolons
  4. Apostrophes


Commas are a widely used form of punctuation. Thus have some of the most diverse list of rules in use. In using a parenthetical expression, a transitional phrase, should have a comma before and after it. Commas are used to separate clauses, participle phrases, appositives (words or phrases that give information to nouns or pronouns). In cases of simple sentences, where a compound verb is used, do not use a comma, if it is not needed, and a clear thought is maintained.


If someone is being quoted, make sure the quotation marks are present, to show their words from the students. Quotation marks are used to identify a quote from someone. This is in Direct quotes, as indirect quotes do not have to be marked.

According to Jack Sparrow, “I am here, and that ship is out there, so how could I be wanting to steal that ship when this ship is here?”

Colons and Semicolons

A colon is used to introduce specific information: lists, information explaining previous statements, or ideas. It is also used to announce a lengthy statement, or quote. Some other areas they are used are: dividing titles from subtitles, naming chapter and verse in a bible, naming the volume and page number of a journal, between city and publisher in the bibliography.

A semicolon is used to give a longer pause than a comma would. This is commonly done in compound sentences. Then can be used with conjunctive adverbs (words that join independent clauses together), and with parenthetical expressions. Parenthetical expressions can be used with either commas or semicolons, depending on the nature of the use.


Apostrophes are used to: state ownership, contractions, Plurals (special cases, not all). This is important enough to mention, that on plurals, most times that an apostrophe will be used, is in plural nouns that end I “s”. Other times will be in plurals that are abbreviated: M.D.’s, PhD.’s, B.S.’s, and such.

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