Sneaky Punctuation Tips - Ways to remember what goes where | Elizabeth Bezant | Skillshare

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Sneaky Punctuation Tips - Ways to remember what goes where

teacher avatar Elizabeth Bezant, Writer and Writing Coach

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Commas, Full stops and Consistency


    • 3.

      Correct Use Of Apostrophes


    • 4.

      Auto-correct, Right Or Wrong?


    • 5.

      Mum and Dad or mum and dad?


    • 6.

      Two Or 2?


    • 7.

      Course Project


    • 8.

      Quiz (1)


    • 9.

      Quiz (2)


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About This Class

How often do you find yourself trying to figure out the quirks of English punctuation? Things like: does 'its' need an apostrophe or not, should it be 'mum' or 'Mum', is it '2' or 'two', and that kind of thing.

After more than a couple of decades writing (and believe me more time than I care to admit trying to figure out what goes where), I’ve come up with a few tips to make the whole thing easier. Tips I’m delighted to share in this course.

So whether you’re learning English, learning punctuation or just fed up of asking yourself ‘Where?’ This short course is for you.

It covers the basics on some of the most annoying, everyday parts of our punctuation and ways to get them right first time.

Plus, at the end of the course I’ve included a short multiple choice quiz to reinforce everything you’ve learned.

PLUS, I’ve also created these Pack of Prompts especially to back up all you learn in this course.

Looking for books to help you with your writing?  Check out my Amazon page.

Meet Your Teacher

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Elizabeth Bezant

Writer and Writing Coach



Hi, my name’s Elizabeth Bezant and I’m an internationally-published, freelance writer and writing coach, currently house-sitting full-time across Australia.

For the past two decades, or so, I’ve had a wonderful time inspiring and informing writers (in person, in print and online).

Over the years I’ve had a diverse range of articles, stories, columns and educational features published in countless magazines, anthologies and newspapers across the world. The ones I’m proudest of were included in: Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Living Abroad, and Grace magazines; America’s Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chocolate for the Woman’s Soul, and&n... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome: okay, own up. How often to use their it a page of writing and ask yourself, Now, where did I put the apostrophe? Or do I even need an apostrophe? This is just one of the fun intricacies about the English language, along with things like Semeka Longs and whether words need capital letters or how to write and number all the time. Any of these funny things can have you stumped. Certainly over the years. As a writer, I have to admit, I spent more time than I would like having finding myself staring at the page and wondering what goes where. So these courses for anybody learning English or anybody fed up with struggling on once a reminder all way to remember where the punctuation goes. It covers things like commerce, semi colons, apostrophes, capital, letters, time, those kind of things, everyday things that we write about but that sometimes have us pausing. It also has a multiple choice quiz at the end, just so that you could go over and see what you've learned and find a way to remember it. Now, if that sounds like the kind of thing you'd like to learn or remind yourself, Go ahead, click on the sign up button now and I'll see you on the other side 2. Commas, Full stops and Consistency: punctuation. Now that's always an interesting topic, no matter who you're talking to. But there are a variety of things you will need to remember as a writer who you will find yourself going crazy. One is that punctuation will vary from one person to another, dependent on where and when they went to school and who they're writing for. I don't know if you've ever looked at other people's work and wondered why they put their Commons where they put them, or if you read something in paper or book and wonder who taught them to put their commerce there. I find it quite interesting that if you look at a person's commerce, you can almost define which country they were educated in, on which generation they come from. It really can be that clear. There are so many different rules on when and where to use commerce, and in most cases, surprisingly enough, they're all correct. So just bear that in mind before we start. There are lots of ways to use commerce. Just because you use them differently from the person next to you doesn't mean that either of you were wrong. Believe me, this is not a topic worth arguing over on. Believe me, in the past I have tried, but it's not worth the effort. So it's not worth arguing over providing, of course, that you are actually taught and have learned how to use commerce and haven't just made up your own way over the years. You're probably all using them correctly. If you are unsure on how to use different bits of punctuation, I e. To use lots of commerce. Do you not use lots of commerce? Do you put commas before anti not put commas before and blah, blah, blah go for consistency. In other words, simply pick one style and just stick with it. This will fit so many aspects of writing. I think it should be possibly typed in big, bold print and pasted directly above every aspiring writers monitor. Consistency always wins the day. If you're unsure on anything and can't tell from a style guide, simply pick one option and be consistent. Better to look like you were taught differently than to look like you couldn't make your mind up and were hopeless. A proof reading one of thes punctuation things is spaces before a capital letter, many many, many years ago when I was a secretary of school and was taught to type on a manual typewriter. I was always told to leave two spaces after us. Full stop on before a capital letter, which won't find then and perhaps still works fine in secretarial school today. But these days, when you're writing for publication of most kinds, one space is plenty. Yes, that's right, just one space. Of course, this doesn't work if your next sentence is the start of a new paragraph. But if you have one sentence after another, it's just one space, if you must, to use two spaces and feel like the world will collapse if you only use one, then go ahead and do it. But do be consistent and think twice before you decide to do it, because most publishers will look more favorably on just one space. Please, please, never use more than two or alternate between one and two because then the world truly will collapse. Now you might have noticed through this video, I have mentioned the style guide, once or twice. A style guide is what publications and publishers tend to use and is basically it's a list of instructions on how they want you to write and submit your work and how they want it to look, including in most cases, they preferred punctuation as well to get hold of a style guide. In most cases, it's simply a case of go to the appropriate business website or contact them. They, in turn, may send you the details or tell you where to find them. This because there are a variety of books recognized as style guides, which do nothing but tell you the correct way to format and layout a manuscript. One of the most common books is Strunk and White's Elements of Style. It's not a big book, but you'll find it on the bookshelves of most serious writers and, thankfully in most decent public libraries. If the people you have submitting your work to have no set style guide and you're unsure on your publication and layout, as always, my recommendation is to pick the style that your most confident with and stick with it that way. You're look consistent and experienced to character traits that can have a positive effect on publishers of all types. If the way you've punctuated your work isn't the way the publication prefers. You can always change it later. They might even change it for you. Unlikely, but always possible. But better that than to look like you don't know what you're doing and don't know how to proof read. 3. Correct Use Of Apostrophes: apostrophes. Now there's a topic as exciting as commerce, and we just love that one. I read somewhere that that's actually a section in the brain that specifically deals with things like apostrophes and where to place them and that that part of the brain doesn't work in everyone. No, I quite like that idea. However, I also think that his writers we need to overcome that and understand apostrophes regardless of whether are brain works in that area or not, because if you don't put your apostrophes in the right place, it shows and people will notice. It's one of those classic signs of an aspiring writer or somebody who doesn't understand the English language as opposed to an experience writer. Why? Because apostrophes are really easy to understand. They are. I promise you again. Why? Because there are only used for two things. That's right, and I'm going to repeat that apostrophes are only used for two things. So what are they used for? My hey, you ask one is to show that a letter or letters a missing on the apostrophe is put in the place where the letter or letters should have bean think of Don't for example, the four phrase is spelt d o N o t. The contraction is spelt D o N t. The 2nd 0 has been left out and the apostrophe is take has taken its place, So it's now spelt d o and apostrophe t. The other reason to use an apostrophe is to show that something belongs to somebody or something. It's Mom's car. It's Dad's keys. It's the cat's dish. It is the writer's mind being lost as he tries to remember where the damn it positive he goes. There you have it apostrophes a used for two things and two things. Only now onto the exciting topic of apostrophes and it firstly, you can have its I t apostrophe s because the apostrophe is placed between the tea and the s. We know that a letter has been left out, and it's easy to assume the letter removed is an I. Therefore, it's is an abbreviation off the or contraction off it is. Secondly, you can have its as in his and hers. This one isn't an abbreviation but an ownership, and it has no apostrophe. You wouldn't put an apostrophe in hiss or hers because the words are complete in themselves , and it's the same with its in this situation as an example. Imagine a real estate agent showing you around a house. They might say. It's front room faces faces north. You wouldn't use his front room or her front room because the house is non gender specific . Therefore, it's an it therefore the phrases its front room faces north. If, after all that you're still a little bit unsure of whether your its needs an apostrophe or not, the simple rule I use when I'm unsure is to ask myself if the word should actually be. It is if it should be. Then I put the apostrophe in while if it shouldn't be, I simply leave the apostrophe out. Earlier, I mentioned contractions, which, of course, is another fun bit about punctuation and writing. Her contraction is a word or Siris of words made shorter by intentionally leaving out letters and replacing them with an apostrophe. As an example, think of Can't won't don't, which is shortened versions of cannot would not do not. There's also she's instead of she is, and so on. Most of us use contractions a lot in everyday language when we're talking to friends, workmates, family, and we used them without usually thinking about them. Therefore, there's something we really need to be aware off when we're writing not just dialogue, but all kinds of writing. If you want your writing or story to sound like you're actually speaking than in most cases , you need to use contractions. It will take your work from sounding staccato, defined and overly educated to sounding like you're chatting to a friend of the fence or in a relaxed environment. The great thing is that by simply choosing the appropriate contractions, you'll instantly make the tone of your writing and characters smoother, more relaxed and more realistic. If you need confirmation that this is a good idea, that's right. I'm going to suggest some considerate eavesdropping again. Listen to the people talk and talk in their conversations. The question then is when would you not use contractions? On what are the exceptions to the war? People who are still new to the English language use very few contractions. This is because when a person is first taught a language, they're taught the correct way to speak. So it's not until they've progressed past that that they actually learned a more casual, relaxed way, something definitely worth remembering. If you have English second language characters or are writing for English second language students, another place you would avoid contractions is where you truly want to emphasize something and for it to have a lasting impact. As in, I was not impressed. I wasn't impressed. Just doesn't have the same punch. Whether you stamp your foot or not, simply by not using contractions, you bring in a definite but subtle attention to particular parts of your writing, characterization and plot. 4. Auto-correct, Right Or Wrong?: Okay, here's a question for you, auto. Correct. Is it right or is it wrong? I think we're all familiar with auto. Correct. They air those there you are happily typing away in your word processing software, whether it be word open office page or something along those lines and all of a sudden you get a brightly colored squiggly line under something you've written. It might mean you've got a typo or fragments sentence. Or perhaps you've made a mistake in your punctuation, however surprise surprise, the computer and its auto great is not always correct. Yes, sometimes that's weekly line is completely unnecessary, and you were right all along. So please do not always rely on it. Very mind to the lot. Lot of computer programs will give you American spellings, not English, which is all well and good if you're writing for an American market, if you're right, him for the UK or the Australian market, or in fact, any market that doesn't use American spellings. Well, then it couldn't just be more of a hindrance than a help. In my mind, the wiggly lines just hints a reminder that says, Hey, is this what you really meant to write. Do you want to double check this just in case you might be wrong. If you're confident in what you're writing them, fine. But if you're not 100% sure, it gives you the opportunity to double check what you've written. In other words, in my opinion, it has his place. But it's not something to follow blindly. As an example, several years back, one of the major word processing companies started doing squiggly lines under places it felt semi colon should go. I'm sure you will know what I'm talking about here. At the same time, almost to the day, the majority of manuscript that appeared on my desk to be critiqued became literally filled with semi colons and most of them we're in the wrong place. I'm not joking. It's is if one day nobody used semi colons on the next day, everybody did, and the majority of them used them badly. It took me a few days to catch on to what was happening, but once I did, it was very evident. It was a Ziff. All of a sudden, the squiggly lines had appeared and said, Hey, you need a semicolon here so the writers, trusting the computer knew better, had simply agreed to the suggestion. Semi colons are used when you have two phrases or clauses that don't quite make sentences on their own but need more than a comma to join them. Usually in this case, the second phrase is simply an expansion of the first phrase justifying or expanding what has already been said. So there you go, water correct, definitely worth its space. But think twice and consider it just something that's just asking. Are you sure? 5. Mum and Dad or mum and dad?: Now here's an interesting question. When the mom and dad have a capital letter to start with, and when do they don't. Now? Obviously, if you use Marin, Parr, mom and Pop or something other Mom and Dad, please feel free to overlook my British heritage and change the words to suit your life. Stop This information is also relevant. Grandma, Granddad, Ankle aren't, in fact, any word that can be used as a name. Aziz. Well as job title, the rule is the same either way, if the words are being used as the job title rather than the name, use lower case letters to start the word. But if they're being used as a name, then used the capital letters, examples here would be, Hey, Mom, can I borrow the car? This mom has a capital letter because it's being used as a name, as opposed to the phrase. Does your mom know you took her car? No capital letter here because Mom is a job title. The difference is once again quite simple, and the rule is simple. It's just a case of understanding it. This is one of those grammatical rules that's easy to be caught out on those and leaves many writers going back over their work to correct typos. For this reason, I've come up with a little rule of my own that will helpfully make things a bit easier if you conspire. Pop your name your personal name for the mum or dad that you've written in your sentence, and the sentence still makes perfect sense. The news. A capital letter to start that word because chances are the word is being used as a name. However, if the sentence no longer makes sense, then using lower case letter to start the word because it's probably a job title. So if it works, do. If it doesn't, then don't easy. Really, when you know what you're doing now, hopefully, that's enough to answer that question. But if you're after more information on this subject, I suggest you do some research on now owns and proper announce. But I hear you ask, What if it's the name of a business rather than a person? Well, the simple rule here is that along with the people's names, business names and trademark names, they all need to start with a capital letter. In fact, if you're in any doubt on whether to use the capital as the first letter or not drive the practice of swapping the word in question with your name here is well, while the sentence my sound a little strange. In most cases, it resolves the problem again. For more information, please feel free to go often. Do a bit of quick research on proper now arms. 6. Two Or 2?: when it comes to rules on numbers and when, where and how to use them again. It's an interesting topic. Have you ever wondered how you should write numbers? In other words, do you type the number two or do you write T W O. The rule here is if the number is under 10 in other words, 0 to 9, then the word should be spelt. While if the number is 10 or over, then it's okay to simply use the number. If you choose to be honest, the over tens depends entirely on your personal choice or relevant style guide. Unless, that is, the number starts this entrance, in which case the word needs to be spelt out in letters because you cannot start a sentence with a physical number. This, of course, brings out other questions. For example, if you're takes has a lot of large numbers in it and none of them written in words. How would it look then? If you suddenly had a large number written out in letters at the start of a sentence? Would it look awkward on the page, or would you be fine with it to me because of my natural pedantic streak. It would look out of place. So to compensate for this, I choose to write all numbers above and below 10 out in full. That way the page looks uniform, but that's my personal new after Susan. My guess. The choice, like I say over 10 is entirely yours. The rule you need to remember is nine and below should be inwards. 10 and over is entirely up to you. And as in many cases, it's simply a case of picking the option you're comfortable with and being consistent. So then another interesting question relating to numbers is time. Should you write 3 p.m. 1500 hours? Three o'clock in the afternoon was simply three in the afternoon. There is so much choice when it comes to writing downtime. Well, the good news is you can write or use whatever you want, as long as it's consistent. Of course, the style of writing or the subject might make your decision for you. Imagine you're writing about a story about an army. Them 1500 hours would be the most fitting style to use. But if you're referring toa afternoon teas than three o'clock in the afternoon, might suit it better. As I say, the choice is entirely yours. On the whole, there is no fixed rule other than to follow the style guide. If you have one. And as we covered with numbers, don't start a sentence with a physical number, it must start with the word. And if you find yourself wanting to start a sentence with the time written in numbers, consider rewording or change in your chosen style, or just playing with what you've written to see if there's a better way of putting the story on your page. So just Aziz, before pick one style you're comfortable with and stick with it. 7. Course Project: Okay, so there you go. I help hope you find that helpful and that you've learned some things and that maybe my tips will be of help in the future. If you did find the course interesting and useful, please give me a review. If you'd like to know more about what I do where I am, please have a look at the buyer. And now for the course challenge a 12 question, multiple choice quiz. Each question will be one sentence written three different ways, and it's up to you to pick, which is the right one, which has the right punctuation and the right spelling. So look at East question as it appears on the screen and decide which one you think is correct. A, B or C. You might need to pause the video for a little while if you do. If you do, that's fine. We'll give you a little bit of time, and then on the screen you'll get the A, B or C to tell you which one is the correct answer. So there you go. Have fun and I'll see you at the end 8. Quiz (1): Hello, man. Welcome to the punctuation quiz. Here you'll find a selection of questions or designed to reinforce the information covered . Each question is also multiple choice and revolves around different sentences, each one written in a variety of ways, and all you have to do is pick which one is written correctly. So here we go with question number one. I'm just going to visit Mom and Dad and which is the correct one. See, because you've got I'm as in I am. And Mom and Dad have a capital letter because that in this instance is their name. Question number two. There's us if we were, and the correct answer is B, because there's, as it's their is spelled correctly. And here we go with question number three. I need six cups, please. On the correct answer is C because six is under 10 and therefore needs to be spelt in full , and please is spelled correctly. Question number four. My phone won't stop bringing, which is the correct answer, honey, because won't is a contraction of will not and has the apostrophe to show that it is. If you're looking at options, see in this instance with the apostrophe before phone and wondering if that's not correct. It might have bean once upon a time when phones were called telephones and not phones. But now that phone is an accepted word by itself, there's no need to include the apostrophe to show that the T E l E is missing. Okay, so here we go with question number five, we could sing. We often sing in the correct answer. Yes, Be because that's a large W at the beginning of the world at the beginning of the sentence , and the we in the middle of the sentence has a small W because it's a semi colon and not the start of another sentence. Question number six 200 people is too many in The answer is C because it's the only one that where the sentence starts with the word and not a number. Question Number seven. I just met Tim Sister, You're correct. Answer is a because the sister is That's not her name. That is her for want of a better word job title. So it requires a small S and Tim's with the apostrophe is to show that it's his sister. Oh, here we go with question number eight. Is that your mom? Then? The answer is C because Mom has a small M because it's not her actual name. And if the sentence finishes with a question mark because it is, of course, a question. Now we go to question number nine. I do most of my shopping at the local store. Then the answer is B because I do is correct. The Eid in answer number A, of course, is not created. So that's compensating for that. And store has a small s because it's not actually the name of the store. Question Number 10 It's hoped. I prefer it cold, and the answer is a because the two contractions there work and have the apostrophes in the appropriate place. And here we go with question number 11. It's the cows paddock. Then the answer here is C, because it it is the cows paddock. The contraction in its is correct, and if you're wondering about the apostrophe in cows at the very end, it's because the cows is plu. If there was one cow in the paddock, the apostrophe would be between the WMDs, as opposed to here, where it's after the s. And actually not only implies that there were more that was more than one cow in the paddock, but also implies that the extra s that would have come after the apostrophe is missing. I hope that all made sense. And here we go with question number 12 The windows there close automatically, then, which is correct. Question a answer? A because there is no apostrophe. So there you go. There's all your questions. I hope you had fun with that. I hope you did well. And I'd love to see what your results are if you care to share them on the project page and even let me know which one you found the hardest. So that if I do need to expand the course, I can do that as well. But in the meantime, continue having fun with your writing. 9. Quiz (2): Here we go with the second quiz for the punctuation course. Just as before. All the questions here are multiple choice and designed to reinforce the information contained in the course. And just as before, simply read the question, select your answer and wait for the tip to appear to find out whether you pick the right answer. So here we go with question number one. Name reasons why a person's use of punctuation might vary. Would it be due to their age where they went to school? Both of the above or none of the above. The answer. Both of the above, where they went to school and their age. Question two. When is more than one space needed after a full stop? In the middle of a paragraph when writing numbers or at the end of the paragraph. And the only place is at the end of a paragraph. Question number three. What is a style guide? Is it a publisher's list of instructions? Instructions on how to set up your desk? Or is it not really relevant to a serious writer? And the answer up publishers list of instructions. Here we go with question number four, named the reasons for using an apostrophe. Would it be to show a letter or letters are missing because it looks better on the page to show ownership or to appeal to a younger reader. And the answers are to show a letter or letters are missing, and to show ownership. Next, what are contractions? Are they words missing letters or words with extra letters? Or they pains caused by excessive writing. The answer words, missing letters. Question number six, what can contractions add to your writing? Would it be depth and directness, shorter sentences and authority, or realism and softer phrasing. The answer here is realism and softer phrasing. So here we go with question number seven. Who might not use contractions? Would it be a person speaking for themselves, somebody new to the language, or a group of friends? And the correct answer, somebody new to the language. Question number eight. Which numbers should be spelled in full? Numbers under ten? Numbers between 10100 or numbers over 100. The answer numbers under ten. Question number nine. When would you avoid spelling and number? At the end of a sentence? At the start of a sentence. When telling time or all of the above? The answer is at the start of a sentence. And finally, question number ten. When writing the time, which of these following options is correct? Is it three in the afternoon, 1500 hours, or 3PM? The answer. All of them dependent on what you're writing and how you want to phrase your sentences. All of the above. So there you go. How did you get on? Why not share your results on the course projects section, we'd love to hear how you got on. Plus of course, if there were any sections in the quiz that you struggled with a bit more than others? There you go. See you on the other side.