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These humble marks on the page do so much to corral the meaning of your sentences.  Here is a quick guide to important ones which can make or break your meaning.



Full stop [.]

  • signifies the end of a sentence
  • was used in many abbreviations in the past Street, eg, ie, Mr
  • usage now restricted to sentence end

Commas [,]

  • words that link a previous sentence to the idea that follows

Unfortunately, the dress was incorrectly invoiced.

  • to show when a group of words are extra to the meaning of the sentence

Taxes, which are a hardship for the people, are not acceptable.

Taxes which are a hardship for the people are not acceptable.

Comparing these two sentences.

The first one is saying that all taxes are not acceptable.  (No taxes are)

The second one is saying that this particular tax is acceptable it is only those that are a hardship that are unacceptable.

  • serial commas are used to separate items in a list and to avoid confusion (yes even before and

Send me the red, blue, striped, and spotted socks.

  • commas can sometimes be needed with conjunctions-if there is a complete sentence on either side of the conjunction (for, and, nor, but) use a comma before the conjunction

She was a wonderful singer, but she faltered towards the end of the solo.

If the second grouping is not a complete sentence don’t use a comma.

She was a wonderful singer but faltered towards the end of the solo.


There are only two places where an apostrophe should be used.

  • indicating possession, with nouns only
  • showing an absent letter


singular –  boy’s book, doctor’s surgery

plural – boys’ books, doctors’ surgery

nouns in the plural – women’s clothes, children’s books

The apostrophe is placed after the last letter of the possessor.

Missing letter – contraction

you are becomes you’re

will not becomes won’t

it is becomes it’s (not the possessive its)

1980s requires no apostrophe but 80’s does (to indicate the missing ’19’)

Avoid the greengrocer’s apostrophe

Apple’s $1.49 kg, potatoe’s $1.29 kg

If the words ends in ‘s’ it does not automatically require an apostrophe.

Colons [:]

  • Used to introduce a list, if the words before are a complete thought
  • Separates unequal parts
  • Can introduce direct speech quotes

The problems with Bridget’s life plan are numerous: she doesn’t speak French, she hasn’t got a job and she doesn’t know where diamonds are cut. 

 Semi-colons [;]

  • Can join two complete thoughts together
  • Separates parts of equal power both can stand alone


Trevor broke the hammer; he went to the hardware store.

Also correct

Trevor broke the hammer so he went to the hardware store.




It was kindly and discreetly pointed out that there was aN error in yesterday’s post.  When I checked – yes – there it was, shouting carelessness all over the page!

Yes – in my rush to post it, I broke my own cardinal principle for proof reading.  It is important to take time between final writing and final edit to ensure that fresh eyes will spot the small errors.


There a number of common problems that people have with sentence constructions. 

The correct form of the verb to use technically speaking would be ‘is’ because number is a collective noun and would require a singular form of the verb.

But in more common usage today ‘are’ would be allowed.

But I am choosing to be technically correct and give the following as my mistake remedy.

 There is a number of common problems that people have with sentence constructions. OR

There are several common problems that people have with sentence constructions. 


Until next time


Aunt Em



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