Punctuation errors are among the most common writing errors. They make your correspondence look unprofessional. Here, then, is a brief refresher course on punctuation.
The comma marks a pause, sets off parenthetical material, separates main clauses in a compound sentence, or follows introductory expressions.
Mistake: If you're going to buy a camera you should get a flash.
Better: If you are going to buy a camera, you should get a flash.
The period ends a sentence.
Mistake: Please consider our proposal, we think you will agree that our service has overwhelming advantages.
Better: Please consider our proposal. We think you will agree that our service has overwhelming advantages.
The semicolon marks the end of a thought to which the next thought is intimately linked, or punctuates lists that are longer than three items.
Mistake: When using our product, care is required, without proper care, all warranties are null and void.
Better: When using our product, care is required; without proper care, all warranties are null and void.
The colon marks the break between a sentence and a list that follows. The colon is not used in lieu of a period, a comma, or a semicolon.
The dash takes the place of a comma (when offsetting a parenthetical remark), period (when the succeeding sentence has the same subject), or colon (when the material following the dash expands on something before the dash). The dash is more informal than any of the punctuation marks it replaces. When used sparingly, it can be an effective tool.
Mistake: Tom who never said a mean thing about anyone admitted to thinking that Terry was vicious.
Better: Tom - who never said a mean thing about anyone - admitted to thinking that Terry was vicious.