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Punctuation – Where to Put In Full Stops

full stop

Period or Full Stop

When I read students’ work, I see too many sentences that never end. This makes one’s work unreadable or at least annoying to read. So this is really one of the first things you should fix in your writing.

Let’s see if we can find a rule for putting a full stop (.), or period as they say in America.

Rules for Full Stops

1 Put a full stop at the end of your sentence.

Everybody knows that the rule is to put a full stop at the end of your sentence. This is only a problem when you don’t know where your sentence ends. And that is a more common problem than you might think.

2 The end of your sentence is where you’ve said one particular thing.

So rule number two is: The end of your sentence is where you’ve told about one particular issue. The next thing that you want to say is really something new, and not a logical addition or contrast that you could put in with your first sentence.

Or, it could also be the case that the information you want to put in your sentence is going to be too long for one sentence. In that case, simply make a new sentence. Don’t continue your old sentence!

Where to Finish Your Sentence

Let’s look at some examples:

Kill Chocolate (1)Wilf had a weakness for chocolate.

Okay, that’s a sentence. Everybody can understand that.

Now we want to know which information we can add to it, and still keep it a sentence.

We can say something about Wilf, first of all:

Wilf, a terrier dog who was always hungry, had a weakness for chocolate.

So, extra information between commas (,) is perfectly fine.

We can say something about the chocolate.

Wilf had a weakness for dark chocolate.

Or: Wilf had a weakness for dark chocolate that had been buried for a week.

(Dogs are weird creatures, as you know.).

Also fine.

We can also add information to our sentence, by using “and.”

Wilf had a weakness for chocolate, and that’s why he should be watched around teatime when the sweets are on the table.

Also okay.

We can also add a contrast with “but.”

Wilf had a weakness for chocolate, but he would never eat himself sick.

Instead of but you can also use “however” if you use a semi-colon (;) and a comma after however, like this:

Wilf had a weakness for chocolate; however, he would never eat himself sick.

You can also use more advanced connectors. Underneath are some examples. These are not all the possibilities, because they are endless:

Wilf had a weakness for chocolate; moreover, he would never miss a day without a large helping of his favourite treat.

(Moreover means in addition).

In case Wilf was hungry for his favourite treat of chocolate, his owner always brought a bar with him on their walks together.

(The connector here is “in case.”)

Now an example with “although:”

Although Wilf had a weakness for chocolate, we taught him not to eat chocolate without our permission.

sick

Now I’ll give you some examples of examples that are wrong:

Wilf had a weakness for chocolate, he would often eat himself sick.

If you’re using Word, a green squiggly line will appear under the word “chocolate” to indicate that you should use a semi-colon (;). Why? Because you need a semi-colon to connect two complete sentences, even if they are connected in meaning. Using a comma is not good here. Another possibility is to use a connecting word (such as “and,” “but,” “although,” etc.). Or: just make two sentences with a full stop between them, like this:

Wilf had a weakness for chocolate. He would often eat himself sick.

 

Courtney Carmody

Here is an example of a worse case:

Wilf had a weakness for chocolate, one day he started licking chocolates from the serving tray.

The parts of the sentence really are two different pieces of information. They should be separated into different sentences, like this:

Wilf had a weakness for chocolate. One day he started licking chocolates from the serving tray.

Now let’s look at an example from a student’s writing:

After working a year in Eilat I returned to Jerusalem and worked at the Dan Hotel, where I also worked as a cook I made confectionary and there they all told me “You need to be a photographer and a cook you take a lot of beautiful pictures.”

This sentence is much too long, of course. There are two problems: we need punctuation marks (commas and full stops). And the sentences should be cut in the right places.

Here is the corrected version:

After working a year in Eilat I returned to Jerusalem and worked at the Dan Hotel, where I also worked as a cook. I made confectionary. There, they all told me: “You need to be a photographer and a cook, because you take a lot of beautiful pictures.”

Here’s another student example:

I was so sorry that I couldn’t tell you happy New Year because my internet was down for a while, I wish you a happy new 2015

Compare this with the corrected version:

I was so sorry that I couldn’t tell you happy New Year, because my internet was down for a while. I wish you a happy new 2015.

More about Punctuation Rules

Read more about the punctuation rules here.

Exercise

Correct the following sentences taken from students’ writing. They are all too long. Your job is to cut the sentence(s) and put in punctuation marks (. ; ,):

Sample 1:

Thank you for your email can you send me something about total grammar because I don’t know grammar very well can you send a review of grammar?

Sample 2:

(This is from a reader of the newsletter):

I just need some help in improvement of my vocabulary and my speaking I am weak in speaking with others.

Sample 3: (this one is more advanced – from student essay)

The Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century is where it all began, people started to use trains which means we can move our products more quickly and to anywhere we want, we started to craft metal in large factories which means that we can export a greater amount of iron in no time, and the use of firearms changed, forever.

In WW2 tanks were a clear choice on the battlefield, those who didn’t have tanks, were doomed.

Armies started to develop technologies for the soldiers inside the tanks, in the winter soldiers froze inside the armoured box, so armies developed inside heating.

So today we are sitting in our homes, turning on the radiator, maybe going to the kitchen and putting the frozen food from Friday in the microwave, going back to sit in front of our new plasma screen, watching a funny movie that we downloaded legally from the Internet waiting for our loved ones to return from work, maybe with the bus maybe with the train or maybe with our family car.

Some possible solutions are at the bottom of this page.

 

Photo of Kill Chocolate by Anne Larie Valentine

 

 

 

 

Suggested solutions to the exercise

Sample 1:

Thank you for your email. Can you send me something about total grammar, because I don’t know grammar very well? Can you send a review of grammar?

Sample 2:

I just need some help in improvement of my vocabulary and my speaking. I am weak in speaking with others.

Sample 3:

The Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century is where it all began. People started to use trains, which means we can move our products more quickly and to anywhere we want. We started to craft metal in large factories, which means that we can export a greater amount of iron in no time. And the use of firearms changed, forever.

In WW2, tanks were a clear choice on the battlefield; those who didn’t have tanks were doomed.

Armies started to develop technologies for the soldiers inside the tanks. In the winter soldiers froze inside the armoured box, so armies developed inside heating.

So today we are sitting in our homes. We turn on the radiator, maybe go to the kitchen and put the frozen food from Friday in the microwave. We go back to sit in front of our new plasma screen, and watch a funny movie that we downloaded legally from the Internet. We wait for our loved ones to return from work, maybe with the bus, maybe with the train or maybe with our family car.

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