Research has clearly established that the vast majority of US business readers notice only two punctuation infelicities — even in formal documents. Today I am sharing a video tutorial to help those amateurs who struggle with the two issues that elicit the most negative attention:
- comma splices: using a comma to mark a sentence boundary
- sentence fragments: using a period to mark the boundary of something less than a sentence
Some of you may be disappointed that these are the only two punctuation issues I address in this tutorial. Academic readers are far more sensitive to punctuation usage than business people. You should know that our workbook, Revising Professional Writing, includes much more on mechanical issues, including punctuation.
But my stance is that I pay attention only to comma splices and sentence fragments with professional writing students because I’m trying to help amateurs become pros in the WORKPLACE. When I teach scholarly writing, I expect students to master more areas of punctuation. And when I teach editing, I expect students to master all areas of punctuation. What I teach about writing depends on the rhetorical context my students will be writing in. (I really do try to practice what I preach!)
I will be working on two other tutorials related to writing mechanics that distract a workplace audience from the writer’s message: subject-verb agreement and spelling. I have definitely struggled to find time for the blog in the past week. When I finally found time to work on the video tutorial on punctuation, I had some serious software trouble. Grrrr!
- Punctuation botheration (proswrite.com)
- Amateurs think standard English matters only in school (proswrite.com)