Punctuation in your academic assignment writing must be accurate. Without clear or correct punctuation, misunderstandings can occur, confusion can spoil your work, your argument can become ‘lost’ and marks can be deducted for lack of clarity.
Using the correct punctuation in a sentence enables your audience to understand your ideas more clearly.
How punctuation can change meaning
Consider these example sentences and their different meanings:
(A) Employees are required to work ‘twenty-four hour’ shifts. = (24hr shifts)
(B) Employees are required to work twenty ‘four-hour’ shifts. = (20 x 4hr shifts)
(C) Employees are required to work twenty four ‘one-hour’ shifts. = (24 x 1hr shifts)
All the above sentences are punctuated very differently and, as a result, have very different meanings. A confusing effect can result in your academic writing if you have no control over your punctuation.
The downloadable file (at the bottom of this webpage) outlines some of the most common uses for frequently used punctuation marks in academic writing. Whilst it is not an exhaustive summary, it should be sufficient for most uses.
Still not sure?
One of the best ways to know how to punctuate a sentence if you’re not sure, is to read it ALOUD to yourself. Notice where you naturally pause, or add extra emphasis or perhaps extra information. Noticing these aspects will help you to decide where and when to punctuate.
Snooks & Co. 2002, Style Manual: for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn, John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd, Milton, QLD.