Punctuating correctly

Typing on a keyboard

Punctuating correctly


Many students encounter difficulties when trying to punctuate their essays correctly, especially those for whom English is a second language. In this series of exercises, the vocabulary for the various punctuation marks will be checked, then their function will be explored. Finally, there will be some texts to punctuate in the correct way.


• To check that the vocabulary to refer to punctuation is fully understood
• To raise awareness of the correct function of various punctuation marks
• To provide an opportunity to practise using punctuation marks correctly

Activity 1: The names and functions of the punctuation marks

Let's begin by making sure you are familiar with the names we use to refer to the various punctuation marks and with the functions they perform in a piece of text.


Follow the link to two timed matching exercises: the first matching the symbols to the words and the second matching the punctuation marks to the functions they perform in a text. You will have one minute to complete the activities.

Punctuation Marks

Activity 2 : Capital letters and commas

The first activity focuses on the use of capital letters and commas.


Put a tick if you need to use capital letters for the categories of words in the column below. Alternatively, put a cross if it is not necessary to capitalise the words referred to.

tick icon cross icon
geographical names e.g. rivers, cities, countries etc.
nationalities and languages
seasons in the year
personal names and titles
religions and religious festivals
names of companies and organisations
beginning sentences and direct speech

Put a tick if you need to put commas in the instances described in the column below. Alternatively, put a cross if it is not necessary to insert commas in these places.

tick icon cross icon
to separate different items in a list
to separate non-defining relative clauses (which add extra, non-essential information e.g. "which was annoying")
before direct quotations
when joining two independent clauses with the linking words: "but", "or" and "so"
before the words "however" or "furthermore" when they connect two independent clauses
to separate the subject from a verb
before or after adverbial clauses of time (which tell you when the action took place e.g. "recently")

Activity 3 : Inserting the correct punctuation

In this activity, you will test your knowledge of punctuation by correcting some paragraphs of text.


Rewrite the following short texts, putting in the correct punctuation marks as you do so.

in order to further evaluate the feasibility of implementing an online resource it was necessary to build up a picture of the learners access to and competence in various computer applications the participants were asked a range of questions relating to their use of computers two of the four interviewees said they had a computer at home one of those who said they had no computer at home did state that one of her sons had a computer she could use however all four respondents confirmed that they did have access to computers at work thus clarifying the findings of the questionnaire

yet as is evident from urs and kerrs quotes the performing of a task can be incorporated into the framework of a game ur wrote above the motivation to perform a clearly defined attainable but not too easy task is one of the factors in a game that produces pleasurable tension according to these definitions any of hadfields elementary communication games 1984 could equally be called communication tasks what then makes a task different from a game surely it is that the former is arduous and the latter is enjoyable

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© William Tweddle, Queen Mary, University of London, 2009, photo used under the terms of an attributive CC license: courtesy of dbdbrobot