April 20th, 2012
Missing punctuation can confuse your customers and clients. Clear punctuation may take some extra effort, but it helps readers follow your ideas and realize you care about being understood.
Some sentences are simple enough not to need commas — e.g., to use a Wall Street Journal writer’s example, “Beets are available throughout the year but their flesh is particularly flavorful when the weather warms.”
Commas are often necessary to help readers follow your ideas. Here’s another correctly punctuated sentence:
Shaved into paper-thin rounds, spring beets provide an earthy, sharp flavor that’s different from the musky sweetness we have come to expect of the vegetable.
Notice how much harder it is to follow the sentence without the commas:
Shaved into paper-thin rounds spring beets provide an earthy sharp flavor that’s different from the musky sweetness we have come to expect of the vegetable.
Correctly placed commas help you signal readers where one idea ends and another begins. It can take effort to step back from your own thoughts and ask how a sentence will look to a reader, but that effort pays off in clarity.
Correct punctuation helps hold readers’ attention. It also signals that you respect them enough to communicate carefully by trying to think about how they’ll receive your message.
Write It Well’s book Essential Grammar includes two full, user-friendly chapters on punctuation. We’ve made all the book’s exercises available as a free download here to accompany the e-book, which is now available on Amazon.com!
Do you have an important document but not enough time to clarify your thoughts and double-check your punctuation and grammar? Just use Write It Well’s editing services to make sure your readers follow your ideas and respect your voice.