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Master Complex Punctuations Fast: 10% Rules That Cover 90% Errors [eBook and Course]

(Little grammar. Real-world examples. Practice exercises.)

Do you understand why each highlighted comma – or no comma in the fourth – has been used in these sentences? (Key word is understand. It means do you know the specific rule behind presence or absence of the commas below. As you’ll see in the examples later, comma by pause – a common method adopted by many – can lead to errors.)

1. I promised myself that I would commit myself to eliminating the multitude of distractions in my life and concentrate on only the fundamentals, those few activities that really had the power to make a difference in the way I worked and lived. Source: Who Will Cry When You Die? By Robin Sharma

2. Her debut feature, which cost €400,000 (£338,576), tells the story of a bullied teenager in a Dublin suburb who becomes alarmed at her mother’s transformation, hinting at supernatural causes, mental illness and social alienation. Source: The Guardian

3. For Serpico, 35, has been waging a lonely, four-year war against the routine and endemic corruption that he and others claim is rife in the NYC police department. Source: Time

4. Johnson and his team alienated Angela Merkel when in October 2019 they briefed British journalists about a confidential phone call in which the two leaders had failed to avert a looming no-deal British exit from the EU. Source: The Guardian [No comma is required]

You can punctuate like in the above sentences, not by gut feel or pause but by a process.

Why punctuation is important?

Punctuation errors show writing in poor light. Period. They can also confuse readers. And, as you’ll see in few examples later, a missing or an excess comma can change the meaning of a sentence, sometimes to a ridiculous extent.

What does the course contain?

Primary focus of the course is few punctuation rules that cover most errors and secondary focus is hidden gems, the few under-used punctuation rules that can lift your writing and leave positive impression.

1. 10 percent punctuation rules that cover 90 percent errors

There are several punctuation marks, each with its own set of rules, leaving learners bewildered on what to learn and what to leave. Good news is that not all punctuation marks have been created equal. Some are used more; some, less. Some are more prone to error; some, less.

To learn faster, you can prioritize the rules that are used more frequently and are prone to errors. (There is no point in prioritizing period despite its heavy use because it’s just not prone to errors.) No prizes for guessing that the list starts with comma, a punctuation mark called by Joe Moran, in his book First You Write a Sentence, as ‘the hardest punctuation mark to get right’.

Little wonder, even reputed publications and organizations falter on comma. An example: The mishap, which happened at around 11.45 pm has been captured on a CCTV camera installed outside a shop in the market. It’ll require a comma after pm. (Punctuation-hunting in real pieces of writing is like a hobby for me, which has helped me learn beyond the confines of punctuation books and style guides. More on this later in ‘About’.)

The course content has been provided in an unorthodox way: It contains 14 sentences showing different types of error, which will also allow you to test your punctuation skills. At the end of these sentences, you can also see the topics to which these sentences belong.

For each sentence below, see if it is correctly punctuated. If not, then correct it. You can check your answer by clicking on ‘Answer’ below each question. In the answers, text around each correction has been highlighted in magenta background so that you can easily identify the correction. Since comma accounts for most punctuation errors, most errors covered in these sentences are comma errors.

Identify punctuation errors, if any, in the following sentences:

1. We saw an example earlier, where coffee was functioning as an adjective.

Answer

Very, very few get this type of comma right. Here, you can use or not use a comma, depending on the meaning you want to convey:

We saw an example earlier where coffee was functioning as an adjective. [No comma implies that there are at least two examples earlier.]

We saw an example earlier, where coffee was functioning as an adjective. [Comma implies that there is just one example earlier.]

2. After the crushing defeat in Adelaide where they were dismissed for just 36 many former players predicted a 4-0 whitewash for the visitors.

Answer

After the crushing defeat in Adelaide, where they were dismissed for just 36, many former players predicted a 4-0 whitewash for the visitors.

[No comma would mean there are at least two cities named Adelaide, which we know is not true.]

3. The U.S. president John F. Kennedy set the vision for landing a human on moon.

Answer

The sentence is correctly punctuated.

4. Depending on how it is used in a sentence, a word can belong to more than one part of speech. The word view, for example can be an adverb, a verb, a preposition, or an adjective.

Answer

The word view, for example, can be an adverb, a verb, a preposition, or an adjective.

5. You want to go out tonight, however, I want to stay home and watch TV.

Answer

You want to go out tonight; however, I want to stay home and watch TV.

You want to go out tonight. However, I want to stay home and watch TV.

6. In this example, the two elements are just words, but in general these elements can be words, phrases, or entire clauses.

Answer

In this example, the two elements are just words, but in general, these elements can be words, phrases, or entire clauses.

[If the introductory phrase in the middle of a sentence is short (like in general), you can keep or omit the comma after. But if it’s long, then you should keep it.]

7. Hearing the whole truth makes me falter a bit when I think about what happened.

Answer

The sentence is correctly punctuated.

8. Industrialization that doesn’t account for environmental factors, and aspirations of neglected local people often results in depletion of natural resources and avoidable strife with the locals.

Answer

Industrialization that doesn’t account for environmental factors and aspirations of neglected local people often results in depletion of natural resources and avoidable strife with the locals.

9. The snake handler moved the snake using a stick.

Answer

The snake handler moved the snake, using a stick.

[No comma would mean that the snake is using a stick.]

10. I came across a disturbing photo, while I was going through my Facebook feed.

Answer

I came across a disturbing photo while I was going through my Facebook feed.

[With connecting words such as while, a comma is acceptable but not recommended. But it’s the other way round with few exceptional connecting words and with situations where absence of comma would create confusion.]

11. I am disoriented this morning, since I didn’t sleep well last night but I can’t use this as an excuse.

Answer

I am disoriented this morning since I didn’t sleep well last night, but I can’t use this as an excuse.

12. I got a steep discount on my dark blue jacket as I bought it during Amazon’s annual sale.

Answer

I got a steep discount on my dark-blue jacket as I bought it during Amazon’s annual sale.

[This however is fine: The jacket I bought is dark blue.]

13. In 2000, at the age of twenty four, Tiger Woods became the youngest to achieve a career Grand Slam.

Answer

In 2000, at the age of twenty-four, Tiger Woods became the youngest to achieve a career Grand Slam.

14. This year, annual appraisal of all HoD’s was completed in time.

Answer

This year, annual appraisal of all HoDs was completed in time.

Topics

  • Essential vs. non-essential information (sentences 1-3)
  • Interjection (sentence 4)
  • Transition words such as however, therefore, and hence (sentence 5)
  • Introductory phrase in the middle of a sentence (sentence 6)
  • Long subject (sentences 7-8)
  • -ing constructions (sentence 9)
  • Complex sentence (sentence 10)
  • Compound-complex sentence (sentence 11)
  • Compound words (sentence 12-13)
  • Apostrophe (sentence 14)

The above list of ten topics is not exhaustive though. The course covers few more topics and more variations of above ten, with clear rules and exceptions. It also contains practice exercises, which enable you to apply what you learn.

Like mentioned before, the course aims to cover most error-prone rules so that you make most progress with least number of rules. That’s why, in the course, you won’t find simple rules which most people get right (example: commas in a list or comma after an introductory phrase).

2. Hidden gems

Covering common errors helps you cut down most of your punctuation errors quickly. But what if you’re not even using few punctuations that can not only lend variety to your writing but also leave positive impression. These are hidden gems, hidden from most. (Commas like in the last sentence are part of this course.)

That’s the secondary focus of this course.

Hidden gems included in the course are:

  • Comma in multiple adjectives describing the same noun
  • Comma to avoid repetitive elements
  • Italics for spotlighting words
  • Colon
  • Semicolon

Who is this for?

This course is for anyone who wants to cut down their punctuation errors quickly without going into complex grammatical terms.

What people say?

“My punctuation skills benefitted immensely from the book. Explanations are clear: The topic of commas in essential vs. non-essential information even uses diagrams at some places to explain a challenging topic. Several real-world examples from newspapers, books, and essays take things closer to reality. Last, most punctuation rules covered are not the ones I was already familiar with.”

Alejandro

“Before taking the 14-sentence quiz, I didn’t even know about my struggle with few punctuations. The course has helped me with quite a few of my comma errors, especially the ones I used to make with information that goes along with people and things. Earlier I wasn’t sure when to use no comma, one comma, or two commas and would instead go by instinct.”

Noah

Course and eBook

The course and the eBook have the same content, but the form is different. Whereas the course is mainly video-based, the eBook is mainly text-based (PDF).

The course also includes:

  • access to weekly office hours for three months for doubt clarification.
  • feedback on two pieces of writing using the punctuation rules you learnt.

Improve your writing by mastering complex punctuations that cause most errors and by learning few punctuation gems that few use. And the skill you gain stays useful for the rest of your life.

Highlights

  • Improve punctuation quickly by focusing on error-prone punctuations
  • Quit comma-by-pause and learn rules to ace most challenging commas
  • Learn punctuation gems that few use
  • Get a handy list of rules and exceptions for easy reference
  • Hone your skills through practice exercises

Improve your writing by mastering complex punctuations that cause most errors through this course containing 2 hours of video content, weekly office hours for 3 months, and feedback on two pieces of writing.

Money Back Guarantee: I’m confident you’ll find the course valuable, but in case you don’t, you can get full refund within 30 days.

Improve your writing by mastering complex punctuations that cause most errors through this 42-page eBook.

Money Back Guarantee: I’m confident you’ll find the eBook valuable, but in case you don’t, you can get full refund within 30 days.

About

I’m Anil, the person behind this course and eBook.

Talking about punctuation, I’ve gained understanding of punctuation not just through books and style guides but also through real-world writings. It’s the real-world writing contained in books, essays, and newspapers that tells which punctuation rules are sacrosanct and which are amenable. That’s why, you’ll often find a nuanced version of punctuation rules in my writings on this website, punctuation in adverb clause being a case in point (scroll down to ‘How to join an adverb clause to an independent clause?’). In the process of scouring real pieces of writing, I’ve critiqued punctuation of prominent publications, organizations, and personalities. And I’ve also critiqued grammar books from popular publishers.

More generally, I’m covering the topic of writing – and its support elements such as phrase, clause, sentence, and punctuation – on this website, which receives more than 3,000,000 learners every year. In the past, I’ve taught writing to K-12 students from Grade 6 upwards and to college students. I’ve also designed curriculum on communication skills, including writing, for a national level college and trained its faculty members.

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