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Welcome back. In our previous lesson, we looked at some of the basics of an email and at ideas to keep your emails brief and clear. We also looked at some of the words we have to avoid. Now, let’s turn to some of the more common capitalization and punctuation errors in English. So punctuation is the little marks in written language, like a period or common. It’s like road signs. If drivers ignore the road signs, then there would be worse traffic and many accidents. Just like road signs in any country, punctuation rules and symbols may be different. So, it’s important to understand the rules when your writing in English. As for punctuation, I want to focus on six errors that are most common and easy to see quickly. These six are the apostrophe, the exclamation point, commas, the dreaded semicolon, quotation marks. And finally, emoticons or text symbols. Before we go into the details of each of these, let’s quickly test your knowledge. Good job. Now, let’s get into the details of punctuation.
First, the apostrophe. It is used for possession, like Suzi’s laptop or Gerry’s address. If you use it in a contraction like can’t or wouldn’t, you should not put it in an email. Second, the exclamation point is one of the most overused symbols in punctuation. Frankly, it should almost never be used in professional emails. It should never be used more than once. My nephews use these in messages on Facebook, but I almost never use them at work. Third, commas. The best rule for these is to read your email aloud. For example, hey Suzi For our meeting later today, I will bring all of the supplies. If you have time, could you pick up the coffee and snacks on your way? Thanks, Gerry. If you pause, that is where a comma should go. Also use commas with FANBOYS, for, and, nor, but, or yet, and so, when you use these words to connect two sentences. Next, a list is where you would need commas. Look at how I wrote all of the FANBOYS. I had to put a comma in between all of them, because they are a series or a list of things. You also use commas to set off all geographical names, like Moscow, Russia or Paris, France. Or for items in dates, except the month and day, like October 10, 2011 and for titles in names such as Philip Hollingsworth, MD. This is just basic information about commas, but you can find more information all over the internet on this topic. One of my favorite sites is The Owl at Purdue, where you can find information on pretty much anything related to grammar and information is geared toward an ESL audience. Fourth, this is another thing I tell my students all the time. The semicolon is used wrong more than it’s used correctly. I avoid it, seriously. Even if I’m slightly unsure, I find a different way to write my thought. But if you must use one, this is one of the main rules from the Owl website. Use a semicolon to join parts of a series when some items in the series already include commas. Fifth, quotation marks. These are not to be used for emphasis, like in this example. I would really like to meet you. They’re only supposed to be used when you’re telling your reader exactly what someone said. Take a look at this example. He said, I would really like to meet you. The punctuation for using them is really tricky. It should be a very rare instance when you should use these, as well. Again, if you absolutely must use them, you should consult the online writing lab at Purdue. Finally, do not use emoticons like you do in a text message. If you knew your reader well enough to send a text, you would not be sending an email. Do not mix up the writing styles. Here’s another example of how not to use the semicolon in an email. There’s one punctuation item I didn’t mention, because I thought it might be too easy for you, it’s the period. Don’t forget to add it at the end of every sentence, unless it’s a question. So we’ve now looked at how and when to use the apostrophe, not over using the exclamation point and where to place commas. We’ve also learned about that semicolon, how to use quotation marks properly. And finally, not using emoticons or text message type stuff in our emails. You should now be more comfortable with your punctuation.
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