Skip to Main Content

Punctuation: A short guide

academic skills guide to punctuation

Full Stops

Mastering full stops is vital for clear writing. Common mistakes include using a comma instead of a full stop between two complete sentences, and the opposite error: using a full stop where a comma should go, creating a fragmented sentence. 


comma clipart imageCommas can be tricky. They have several uses. Below are some of the most common. You should use commas to separate clauses (sections) of complex sentences. For example:

After talks broke down, relations between the two countries became even more strained. 

Words like 'however,' 'consequently,' 'instead' and 'therefore' should have a comma after them if they are the first word in a sentence. For example:

However, there is evidence to contradict this approach. 

Before the words 'and', 'but' and 'because,' you can either use a comma or leave it out, but if the sentence is long and complex, a comma can make it easier to read (as in this sentence). To take another example:

The talks were conducted against a background of increasing distrust between representatives from both side, and relations between the two countries consequently deteriorated. 

Commas separate items in a list. For example:

Relations between the two countries were characterised by distrust, hostility and caution. 

Accessibility statement