Checking school essays for punctuation mistakes

Proofreading a school essay for punctuation mistakes is a task that students find tedious and a last step that is often skipped before turning in an assignment. While teachers everywhere model techniques and remind students about the importance of looking for punctuation errors; it still goes undone. One reason may be that technology has streamlined much of the writing process. Features like cut and paste has made editing much easier and the grammar and spell check functions on the word processor give the user a false feeling that if there are errors, they will be auto-corrected.

The problem is that not all the auto-corrected mistakes are actually fixed in a way that makes sense and then neither does the paper. One thing that is helpful is to understand a bit about the punctuation marks. Checking the paper for punctuation mistakes can be easier if the writer understands the marks and uses for each. The following may be helpful:

  • Periods, exclamation points or question marks are used at the end of sentences. Make sure that all the sentences are full thoughts. If the sentence leaves the reader hanging, don’t just place a period at the end.
  • Commas are a reader’s best friend because they can break up sentences, separate a list of items and can add those words of wisdom in the last sentence of an essay that may be an afterthought the writer wishes to include.
  • Semicolons create a break in the ideas, but lets the writer show that there is a connection with the two ideas. This can be explained in this example sentence. No one seemed very hungry; one child pushed her vegetables around the plate.
  • Colons are used to connect two sentences on the same theme. It can be used in place of a semicolon if there is no coordinating conjunction. The most common way to use it is to make a list of thoughts that may not be in a paragraph format. Please bring these items to class: pen, notebook and highlighter.

Rereading an essay or asking someone else to read it can help to catch errors. Understanding the uses of the punctuation marks makes this double-check much faster and more productive. Checking school essays for punctuation mistakes can help students turn in a well written paper and the extra time it will take to scan for mistakes will be worth it.