While we may be living in a content-centric society, do not underestimate the importance of proper punctuation, semantics and syntax in your papers. Academic writing and research requires a high degree of professionalism, so do not under sell your work by using poor punctuation. More importantly, the way in which you utilize punctuation affects your linguistic strategy. Hyphens, commas, and apostrophes all affect the readability of your prose.
Chances are you have read a sentence in one of your periodicals that made you lose your breath for a second. If not, perhaps you should read more carefully. Sentences are long strings of text, thus you need a marker to signify a pause, or change of thought. Commas help differentiate various parts of a sentence for your readers. Sentences lacking commas are often referred to as run-on sentences, because readers have a difficult time reading the entire clause in one breath.
Academic discourse frowns upon the use of apostrophes, but there are times where you will need to utilize them in your work. The best example of poor usage of apostrophes are â€œdonâ€™t, Iâ€™m, arenâ€™t, etc,â€ as stating â€œdo not, I am, are not, etcâ€ increases readability and portrays a professional vibe. Apostrophes are also used in the possessive form, as in â€œthe boyâ€™s.â€ There are many rules for using apostrophes, but following these basic principles clarify your prose.
If hyphens confuse you, know you are not alone! These tiny grammatical elements stir up quite a bit of trouble in the writing community! You can use hyphens to connect two words or numbers, increase clarity, connect prefixes and suffixes, and split words onto the next line. For example, thirty-six, ex-author, T-bone steak, and 45-degree angle are all appropriate uses of hyphens.
The next time you go to submit your prose, take a moment, and review the content for proper syntax and punctuation. Having a well written and grammatically sound paper boosts your chances of success.