Ah, the punctuation. Of all the grammar in IELTS writing, this one is perhaps the most abused and misused. With a lot of rules, many will easily get confused, when to use what. Aham! Aham! many but not all. Behold my students behold, below you will find the guidance. So fear not. We shall be dealing with the best IELTS Punctuation rules for writing tasks 1 and 2 today.
IELTS Punctuation rules, be it anywhere, is very fundamental because they may alter the meaning of your sentence. Don’t believe? Look at this sentence with no punctuation mark.
Attention toilet is for disabled pregnant old children only.
It is very common for Nepalese students that they focus just a little on these issues. Maybe because many have no idea about the rules. Let me assume that you have no idea; otherwise why should this article be published. Let’s study those main punctuation rules that may be handy for your writing task.
Rule 1. Use a period at the end of a complete sentence that is a statement.
Example: I know that you would never break my trust intentionally.
Rule 2. If the last word in the sentence ends in a period, do not follow it with another period.
Examples: I know that M.D. She is my sister-in-law.
Please shop, cook, etc. I will do the laundry.
Rule 3. Use a period after an indirect question.
Example: He asked where his suitcase was.
Ellipsis Marks[…] (just for knowledge)
(we do not use Ellipsis marks in IELTS )
Use ellipsis marks when omitting a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage.
Rule 1. Use only three marks whether the omission occurs in the middle of a sentence or between sentences.
Example: Original sentence: The regulation states, ‘‘All agencies must document overtime or risk losing federal funds.’’
Rewritten using ellipses: The regulation states, ‘‘All agencies must document overtime…’’
With the three-dot method, you may leave out punctuation such as commas were in the original.
Example: Original sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: ‘‘Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’’
Rewritten using ellipses: ‘‘ Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth… a new nation, conceived in liberty…’’
Rule 2. When you omit one or more paragraphs within a long quotation, use ellipsis marks after the last punctuation mark that ends the preceding
Rule 1. To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.
Example: My $10 million estate is to be split among my husband, daughter, son, and nephew.
Omitting the comma after son would show that the son and nephew would have to split one-third of the estate.
Rule 2. Use a comma to separate two adjectives when the word and can be inserted between them.
Examples: He is a strong, healthy man.
We stayed at an expensive summer resort. You would not say expensive and summer resort, so no comma.
Rule 3. Use a comma when an -ly adjective is used with other adjectives.
To test whether an -ly word is an adjective, see if we can use it alone with the noun.
If it can, use the comma.
Examples: Felix was a lonely, young boy.
I get headaches in brightly lit rooms. Brightly is not an adjective because it cannot be used alone with rooms; therefore, no comma is used between brightly and lit.
Rule 4. Use commas before or surrounding the name or title of a person directly addressed.
Examples: Will you, Aisha, do that assignment for me?
Yes, Doctor, I will.
Capitalize a title when directly addressing someone.
Rule 5a. Use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year and after the year.
Example: Kathleen met her husband on December 5, 2003, in Mill
Rule 5b. If any part of the date is omitted, leave out the comma.
Example: They met in December 2003 in Mill Valley.
Rule 6. Use a comma to separate the city from the state and after the state. Some businesses no longer use the comma after the state.
Example: I lived in San Francisco, California, for twenty years.
I lived in San Francisco, California for twenty years.
Rule 7. Use commas to surround degrees or titles used with names.
Commas are no longer required around Jr. and Sr. Commas never set off II, III, and so forth.
Example: Al Mooney, M.D., knew Sam Sunny Jr. and Charles Starr III.
Rule 8. Use commas to set off expressions that interrupt the flow of the sentence.
Example: I am, as you have probably noticed, very nervous about this.
Rule 9. When starting a sentence with a weak clause, use a comma after it. Conversely, do not use a comma when the sentence starts with a strong clause followed by a weak clause.
Examples: If you are not sure about this, let me know now.
Let me know now if you are not sure about this.
Rule 10. Use a comma after phrases of over three words that begin a sentence. If the phrase has fewer than three words, the comma is optional.
Examples: To apply for this job, you must have previous experience.
On February 14 many couples give each other candy or flowers.
On February 14, many couples give each other candy or flowers.
Rule 11. If something or someone is sufficiently identified, the description following it is considered nonessential and should be surrounded by commas.
Examples: Freddy, who has a limp, was in an auto accident. Freddy is named, so the description is not essential.
The boy who has a limp was in an auto accident. We do not know which boy is being referred to.
Rule 12. Use a comma to separate two strong clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction—and, or, but, for, nor. You can omit the comma if the clauses are both short.
Examples: I have painted the entire house, but he is still working on sanding the doors.
I paint and he writes.
Rule 13. Use the comma to separate two sentences if it will help avoid confusion.
Example: I chose the colors red and green, and blue was his first choice.
Rule 14. A comma splice is an error caused by joining two strong clauses with only a comma instead of separating the clauses with a conjunction, a semicolon, or a period. A run-on sentence, which is incorrect, is created by joining two strong clauses with no punctuation.
Incorrect: Time flies when we are having fun, we are always having fun.
Incorrect: Time flies when we are having fun we are always having fun.
Correct: Time flies when we are having fun; we are always having fun.
Time flies when we are having fun, and we are always having fun.
(Comma is optional because both strong clauses are
Time flies when we are having fun. We are always having fun.
Rule 15. If the subject does not appear in front of the second verb, do not use a comma.
Example: He thought quickly but still did not answer correctly.
Rule 16. Use commas to introduce or interrupt direct quotations shorter than three lines.
Examples: He said, ‘‘I do not care.’’
‘‘Why,’’ I asked, ‘‘do you always forget to do it?’’
Rule 17. Use a comma to separate a statement from a question.
Rule 18. Use a comma to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.
Example: That is my money, not yours.
Rule 19. Use a comma when beginning sentences with introductory words. Such as well, now, or yes.
Examples: Yes, I need that report.
Well, I never thought I’d live to see the day . . .
Rule 20. Use commas surrounding words such as therefore and however when they are used as interrupters.
Examples: I would, therefore, like a response.
I would be happy, however, to volunteer for the Red Cross.
Rule 21. Use either a comma or a semicolon before introductory words such as namely, that is, i.e., for example, e.g., or for instance, when they are followed by a series of items. Use a comma after the introductory word.
Examples: You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.
You may be required to bring many items; e.g., sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.
You may be required to bring many items, e.g. sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.
i.e. means that is; e.g. means for example.
Rule 1. Use a semicolon in place of a period to separate two sentences where the conjunction has been left out.
Rule 2. It is preferable to use the semicolon before introductory words such as namely, however, therefore, that is, i.e., for example, e.g., or for instance when they introduce a complete sentence. It is also preferable to use a comma after the introductory word.
Examples: You will want to bring many backpacking items; for example, sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing will make the trip better.
As we discussed, you will bring two items; i.e., a sleeping bag and a tent are not optional.
Rule 4. Use the semicolon to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas.
Rule 5. Use the semicolon between two sentences that are joined by a conjunction but already have one or more commas within the first sentence.
Examples: When I finish here, I will be glad to help you; and that is a promise I will keep.
If she can, she will attempt that feat; and if her husband is able, he will be there to see her.
Rule 1. Use the colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items when introductory words such as namely, for example, or that is do not appear.
Examples: You may be required to bring many items: sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.
I want the following items: butter, sugar, and flour.
I want an assistant who can do the following: (1) input data,
(2) write reports, and (3) complete tax forms.
Rule 2. A colon should not precede a list unless it follows a complete sentence; however, the colon is a style choice that some publications allow.
Examples: If a waitress wants to make a good impression on her customers
and boss, she should (a) dress appropriately, (b) calculate the
bill carefully, and (c) be courteous to customers.
There are three ways a waitress can make a good impression on
her boss and her customers:
(a) Dress appropriately.
(b) Calculate the bill carefully.
(c) Be courteous to customers.
I want an assistant who can (1) input data, (2) write reports,
and (3) complete tax forms.
Rule 3. Capitalization and punctuation are optional when using single words or phrases in bulleted form. If each bullet or numbered point is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word and end each sentence with proper ending punctuation. The rule of thumb is to be consistent.
Examples: I want an assistant who can do the following:
(a) input data,
(b) write reports, and
(c) complete tax forms.
The following are requested:
(a) Wool sweaters for possible cold weather.
(b) Wet suits for snorkeling.
(c) Introductions to the local dignitaries.
The following are requested:
(a) wool sweaters for possible cold weather
(b) wet suits for snorkeling
(c) introductions to the local dignitaries
With lists, you may use periods after numbers and letters instead of parentheses.
These are some of the pool rules:
1. Do not run.
2. If you see unsafe behavior, report it to the lifeguard.
3. Have fun!
Rule 4. Use a colon instead of a semicolon between two strong clauses (sentences) when the second clause explains or illustrates the first clause and no coordinating conjunction is being used to connect the clauses. If only one sentence follows the colon, do not capitalize the first word of the new sentence. If two or more sentences follow the colon, capitalize the first word of each sentence following.
Examples: I enjoy reading: novels by Kurt Vonnegut are among my favorites.
Garlic is used in Italian cooking: It greatly enhances the flavor of pasta dishes. It also enhances the flavor of eggplant.
Rule 5. Use the colon to introduce a direct quotation that is more than three lines in length. In this situation, leave a blank line above and below the quoted material. Single space the long quotation. Some style manuals say to indent one-half inch on both the left and right margins; others say to indent only on the left margin. Quotation marks are not used.
Example: The author of Touched, Jane Straus, wrote in the first chapter: Georgia went back to her bed and stared at the intricate patterns of burned moth wings in the translucent glass of the overhead light. Her father was in ‘‘hyper mode’’ again where nothing could calm him down. He’d been talking nonstop for a week about remodeling projects, following her around the house as she tried to escape his chatter. He was just about to crash, she knew.
Rule 6. Use the colon to follow the salutation of a business letter even when addressing someone by his/her first name. Never use a semicolon after a salutation. We use a comma after the salutation for personal correspondence.
Example: Dear Ms. Rodriguez:
Rule 1. Use parentheses to enclose words or figures that clarify or are used as an aside.
Examples: I expect five hundred dollars ($500).
He finally answered (after taking five minutes to think) that he did not understand the question.
Rule 2. Use full parentheses to enclose numbers or letters used for listed items.
Example: We need an emergency room physician who can (1) think quickly, (2) treat patients respectfully, and (3) handle complaints from the public.
Rule 3. Periods go inside parentheses only if an entire sentence is inside the parentheses.
Examples: Please read the analysis (I enclosed it as Attachment A.).
Please read the analysis. (I enclosed it as Attachment A.)
Please read the analysis (Attachment A).
Rule 1. Use the apostrophe with contractions. We always place the apostrophe at the spot where the letter(s) has been removed.
Examples: don’t, isn’t
She’s a great teacher.
Rule 2. Use the apostrophe to show possession. Place the apostrophe before the s to show singular possession.
Examples: one boy’s hat
one woman’s hat
one actress’s hat
one child’s hat
Ms. Chang’s house
Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred.
Mr. Jones’s golf clubs
Ms. Straus’s daughter
Jose Sanchez’s artwork
Dr. Hastings’s appointment (name is Hastings)
Mrs. Lees’s books (name is Lees)
Rule 3. Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.
Example: This was his father’s, not his, jacket.
Rule 4. To show plural possession, make the noun plural first. Then immediately use the apostrophe.
Examples: two boys’ hats
two women’s hats
two actresses’ hats
two children’s hats
the Changs’ house
the Joneses’ golf clubs
the Strauses’ daughter
the Sanchezes’ artwork
Rule 5. Do not use an apostrophe for the plural of a name.
Examples: We visited the Sanchezes in Los Angeles.
The Changs have two cats and a dog.
Rule 6. With a singular compound noun, show possession with ’s at the end of the word.
Example: my mother-in-law’s hat
Rule 7. If the compound noun is plural, form the plural first and then use the apostrophe.
Example: my two brothers-in-law’s hats
Rule 8. Use the apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.
Examples: Cesar and Maribel’s home is constructed of redwood.
Cesar’s and Maribel’s job contracts will be renewed next year.
Shows separate ownership.
Cesar and Maribel’s job contracts will be renewed next year.
Indicates joint ownership of over one contract.
Rule 9. Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose. They already show possession so they do not require an apostrophe.
Correct: This book is hers, not yours.
Incorrect: Sincerely your’s.
Rule 10. The only time an apostrophe is used for it’s is when it is a contraction for it is or it has.
Examples: It’s a nice day.
It’s your right to refuse the invitation.
It’s been great getting to know you.
Rule 11. The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes.
Examples: She consulted with three M.D.s.
She went to three M.D.s’ offices.
The apostrophe is needed here to show plural
She learned her ABCs.
the 1990s, not the 1990’s
the ’90s or the mid-’70s, not the ’90’s or the mid-’70’s
She learned her times tables for 6s and 7s.
Exception: Use apostrophes with capital letters and numbers when the meaning would be unclear otherwise.
Examples: Please dot your I’s.
You don’t mean Is.
Ted couldn’t distinguish between her 6’s and 0’s.
You don’t mean Os.
Rule 12. Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).
Examples: Alex’s skating was a joy to behold.
This does not stop Joan’s inspecting of our facilities next Thursday.
Rule 13. If the gerund has a pronoun in front of it, use the possessive form of that pronoun.
Examples: I appreciate your inviting me to dinner.
I appreciated his working with me to resolve the conflict.
Source: Cambridge Grammar for IELTS, A blue book of punctuation, Professional punctuation guide for writers, and internet.