While there are countless ways to ruin good writing, there is probably no quicker way to lose writing credibility than by exhibiting punctuation errors. Punctuation is the visual cue in our language that we use to increase comprehension, to change speed and tone, and to improve the overall reading experience. Plus, punctuation can completely change meanings. Consider this now-famous sentence where the words remain the same, but the punctuation changes:
A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
Two perfectly fine sentences. Two completely different meanings. When punctuation gets messed up, so does the intended meaning of the writer. If you want to improve your writing, start with the basics: understand your punctuation and stay out of Punctuation Purgatory!
Here’s my list of the Seven Deadly Sins of Punctuation. There are certainly many more errors you can make when using the 15 punctuation marks we have in English, but if you avoid these most deadly, sinful errors that fall in the punctuation pits of purgatory, you’re writing is much more likely to sound, well, heavenly.