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Published: Thursday, 26 May, 2016 11:10 AM
Punctuation is not merely an accessory in a language, as some believe. It is, in fact, as integral to a language as other components such as, conjunctions, articles and prepositions among others. Punctuations are essential in giving the intended meaning to the language. Wrong punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence completely.
The most commonly used punctuation marks in the English language are comma, semicolon and full stop. All three of them indicate varying degrees of pause in the sentence. The comma is used to indicate a short pause, for instance, ‘I like Italian, Chinese and Continental cuisines.’ The semicolon indicates a stronger pause than a comma, for instance, ‘Rohit likes Chinese;Amit likes Mexican.’ The full stop indicates the greatest pause and the end of a sentence, for instance, ‘Tanya and Tanvi are best friends.’
As people make the maximum errors in these three punctuation marks, these three remain in focus and are talked about. But, punctuation does not only comprise these three. Other punctuation marks are equally significant in giving meaning, as well as,in enabling the correct use of the language.
Colon, Hyphen, Exclamation Mark and Question Mark are other punctuation marks which fulfil their own purpose in a sentence. Just as no other punctuation mark can replace semicolon, comma and full stop, the other punctuation marks also cannot be replaced. They have their own independent function in language.
The colon is used to show that something is to follow.
For example, ‘I want the following items: a chair, a table, and a marker.’ Using a semicolon, instead of a colon can change the sense of the sentence. This is revealed in the sentences below :
a. Vansh is right; Ajay’s method is wrong.
This sentence indicates that both sentences are related, and implies that both Ajay and I are were working on the same problem.
The hyphen is used to link two or more elements in a sentence. Not using a hyphen where it is required can alter the sense of the sentence.
For example,‘I want to re-cover my sofa’, implies that I want put a new cover on it
‘I want to recover my sofa’, implies that I want to recover it from someone who may
have borrowed or stolen it
The exclamation mark is used after interjections and after phrases and sentences expressing sudden emotion or wish. The meaning changes if exclamation mark is replaced by another punctuation.
a. What are you doing!
The above sentence can be understood to express surprise, bewilderment, or dismay.
b. What are you doing?
Using a question mark removes the element of sudden outburst if emotion and makes
it a simple question to know what the other person was doing.
Clearly, each punctuation mark has its own usage that should be understood independently. You must learn to differentiate between punctuation marks and not confuse one for the other. Doing so, can distort your intended meaning.
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