Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Abnormal Apostrophes

Little symbols have enormous power.

Good use of commas, colons and dashes makes you seem smart and slick—while ill use of punctuation makes you seem stupid and sloppy.

If you care about the authority of your work, you must care about punctuation.

Liking punctuation, however, becomes easy once you recognise it as a device to improve the clarity and beauty of your writing.

And because periods and commas are tools to aid reader comprehension, their use is actually more relaxed than popular belief would have you think.

While there are rules that specifically say how and when to use what kind of punctuation, you’re only expected to know the basics. Breaking the basics is what makes you look ignorant. But if you can perform the fundamentals without fail, you discover you have a lot of artistic freedom.

Journalists better know that artistic license as ‘house style’. Every media company has its own way of using punctuation and grammar to support clear communication. And once you understand the basics, you should too.

Here are some punctuation guidelines from my own house style:

  • Less is more
  • Commas and full stops go inside speech quotations
  • Marcus’ birthday, not Marcus’s birthday

What are yours?

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach