Have an expert improve your writing
Check your paper for plagiarism
Get inspired by free writing samples

The 22 Most Common Punctuation Mistakes Worth Knowing

Written by Helen Burgos
Posted: July 9, 2024
Last update date: July 19, 2024
8 min read

This writing guide aims to help you learn how to determine and fix 22 common punctuation mistakes. 

Common punctuation mistakes

What is punctuation?

When composing an assignment, working on a research paper, or providing a reflective journal, punctuation is always essential. In simple terms, it is a set of rules that helps us to keep our ideas structured with the right timing. It helps our target audience to understand and determine the meaning behind the words. Since there are specific rules, punctuation mistakes are easy to make. This guide will help determine the most common ones by providing practical examples and the rules.

Why does punctuation matter?

While we all know that most sentences must end with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point, one can face many rare grammar rules. When a citation is used, things become even more challenging. One of the prominent examples is the use of commas and periods that go inside the question marks. Now, the dashes, colons, and the use of semicolons all belong to the cases when you have to use them outside.

So what does the punctuation include?

  • It includes using a period, comma, quotation, and question marks.
  • It also involves using brackets, parenthesis, colon, semicolon, and other similar writing mechanics.

As you read this guide, you will learn how to determine and fix bad punctuation issues as you edit your assignment before submission.

Your final grade will be decreased when your college assignment has poor or wrong punctuation. That is why editing and proofreading are so important as you work on your grammar and learn to check things twice!

22 Common Punctuation Mistakes You Must Fix

1. The Problem of Misplaced Apostrophes.

You should not be using apostrophes when you wish to make words plural. You have to use them when you need to show a certain possession or wish to create relevant contractions. If it does not make much sense to you, have a look at the examples below:

Wrong: We are going to ride a new car’s to test.

Correct: We aren’t going over to John’s place.

2. ‘It’s’ versus ‘Its’ Punctuation Mistake.

It is where things can get rather complex. Even though we know the rules related to apostrophes, there are certain exceptions. Do not use an apostrophe with the word when you have to show relevant possession. You must use an apostrophe to create a contraction like “it’s” made out of “it is”. Here is how things look like in practice:

Correct: This yogurt is past its expiration date.

3. Wrong Quotation Marks.

It is the most common punctuation mistake that many college and high school students make. Do not use single or double quotation marks where it’s not necessary. As a rule, a double quotation is used to show direct speech or when working with dialogue. The same is true for slang or specific words. See this example:

Correct: Have you read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” as a child?

4. Incorrect Use of Single Quotation Marks.

This use of punctuation can be quite confusing. As you can see, single quotation marks are used when a quote goes within a quote. It is how it may look in practice:

Correct: Sandy looked at Mr. Jones and said, “I’m not certain this is the right way. He made it clear to me by saying, ‘Be there by 3 pm.'”

5. Incorrect End Marks Placement Within Your Quotations.

It might be familiar to you. Now, quotations can be used when enclosing a part or an entire sentence. If your sentence ends with an exclamation mark or a question, your quotations are placed inside the quotation. If it’s not the case, you must place them outside the last quotation mark. See such punctuation errors in practice:

Correct: My son was confused and asked, “Are you sure you didn’t take my candy from the fridge?”

6. Using Parentheses Wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, the use of parentheses is a challenging thing! While they are used to divide all the extra or additional information from a sentence, one can use parentheses to separate several sentences. Still, many students use them incorrectly. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, do not overuse them!

Wrong: I went to the library (to fetch some books) and read some adventure books.

Correct: I went to the library (the new one at the university) and took my time to read some adventure books.

7. The Use of Commas.

As a rule, commas are the most challenging aspect of English grammar. Even the pros can make punctuation mistakes in this regard. If you place or use the wrong commas incorrectly, you may confuse your readers. Commas must be used when you join two independent clauses with a conjunction. See below:

Correct: I am attending the rock festival this Sunday, and I plan to visit my friends too.

The other cases when commas must be used include dates and postal addresses, to specify certain data that is not essential, and when you have to separate items that go in series.

8. Using Too Many Commas.

Some learners believe that using too many commas will help to make things better. When you place commas where they should not be, it will only degrade your final mark.

Correct: John, Mary, and Sally have invented this trick, not me.

Wrong: When things went bad, she went home, and wept.

9. The Problem of Misplaced Period.

The wrong use of periods can lead to run-on sentences. It can also make your college assignment confusing. When you have a complete sentence, you have to place a period. The same is true for cases when you complete a logical idea.

Wrong: It wasn’t hard to pull through the heartbreak because all she had to do was start with yoga classes and let the professor get her involved.

Correct: It wasn’t hard to pull through the heartbreak. All she had to do was start with yoga classes. Letting the professor help her get involved was useful too.

10. Comma Splicing Challenges.

It is where this incorrect punctuation problem occurs. It happens when a comma is used when you have to use a period, a semicolon, or a colon. Here is how it looks in practice:

Wrong: He said to come to the soccer game, he said to wait at the field.

Correct: He said to come to the soccer game. He also said to wait at the field.

11. The Use of Semicolons By Masking Them as Commas 

Wrong: Mary was planning to sleep tonight; and she needed to buy some fish first.

Correct: Mary was planning to sleep tonight, so she must buy some fish first.

As you can see, semicolons must be used to divide complex aspects of a sentence into a specific list where you must use commas. Now, semicolons must be used to separate two independent clauses.

12. Using Colons as Semicolons.

It’s one of the most common punctuation mistakes. Colons must be used when you have an independent clause to introduce a dependent clause. The same is true when you have to list certain items. You do not have to provide a relationship when you have two sentences.

Wrong: The dress was truly beautiful: she could tell it was like a fairytale.

Correct: The dress was beautiful; she could tell it was like a fairytale.

13. Colons After Fragments Issue.

Another common problem related to punctuation problems is the wrong use of colons. As the rules state, colons are only allowed when you have an independent clause, not some fragment. Here is how it looks in practice:

Wrong: Get from the record store: The Beatles, Jam, Tom Petty, and Johnny Marr.

Correct: There were only a few CDs left to get from the store: The Beatles, Jam, Tom Petty, and Johnny Marr.

14. An Extra Space After a Period When Pasting Things.

When proofreading your college assignment, ensure you do not have extra space at the end of the sentence. It can happen when you paste a citation and have an extra space. Most Word processors will fix this punctuation error automatically, yet copying something using some LMS system must be checked twice.

15. The Wrong Use of Dashes.

Some people place another dash when writing, as you can see below:

Wrong: It was challenging to go through the first year at college — the weight gain problem and stress.

Correct: It was challenging to go through the first year at college, the weight gain problem, and the stress.

The dash is mostly used as a common or parentheses to set some data apart. It can be used to add more data to the sentence.

16. Using a Hyphen Wrongly.

As you may already know, a hyphen is different from a dash. A hyphen should be used when you have to connect several words. Here are some examples where a hyphen is used in practice:

  • We went through the check-in at the airport.
  • The kids were playing on the merry-go-round.
  • The father-in-law has been a military bloke.

17. The Use of Exclamation or Question Marks in Academic Writing.

You can use three exclamation marks when composing a blog post or writing a message to your friend. Now, when you are composing research, it should be limited to only one mark. See such punctuation errors below:

Wrong: John is quite an athlete!!!

Correct: Mr. Jones is an awesome person!

Wrong: She had no other plans, right??? Now, I won’t do it again!!!

18. Forgetting to Capitalize Titles.

Most academic style formats ask to capitalize titles. It is necessary to follow the citation format like APA or MLA. The words like “a, the, an, this” should not be capitalized. You can see how it works below:

Wrong: The adventures of John Smith and other things.

Correct: The Adventures of John Smith and Other Things.

19. Wrong Use of Capitalization.

It is the most common punctuation issue that college students face. As a rule, you must capitalize every first word in a sentence and the proper nouns. Sometimes things go wrong:

Wrong: We planned to visit Summer Festivals and see our favorite Artists we missed last year.

Correct: We planned to visit summer festivals and see our favorite artists we missed last year.

20. Missing Coordinating Conjunctions in Writing.

If it sounds like rocket science to you, this is where you must avoid writing in fragments. It also stands for using too many semicolons in a sentence. See examples below:

Wrong: We went to the cinema. Spoke about the movie’s plot. Had so much fun that day.

Correct: We went to the cinema and spoke about the movie’s plot, having so much fun that day.

21.Placing End Marks Correctly.

You must follow the rules when using quotation marks in your paper. If you use periods and commas, you have to place them inside quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points must go within the quote.

Wrong: Andrew smiled and said, “It won’t help much”.

Correct: Andrew smiled and said, “It won’t help much.”

Wrong: Are you sure that she said “this is the right way?”

Correct: Are you sure she said, “This is the right way”?

22. Hyperlinks and Graphics.

The hyperlinks should be either made as a link in the Word processor or placed in a separate line after the indent. Use the citation style provided by the grading rubric and/or instructor to avoid grammar mistakes.

Getting Your Grammar Fixed Easily!

By dealing with a complex assignment when your time is running out, missing some punctuation mistakes is always possible. Making mistakes when editing and proofreading or working with citations is quite natural. While you can make another effort to check things twice, you can find an alternative solution. After all, checking grammar should be simple!

Based on the smart artificial intelligence algorithms, every student can approach grammar check by Fixgerald and get every punctuation and other grammar aspects addressed. It can also include an already added plagiarism check that will help to make your assignment perfect. You can get one free check for that, while the grammar check is free! There are no ads and no limitations as you get your punctuation and other grammar issues checked.

This helpful solution will work best for you when you need ways to improve things quickly and easily with a detailed report!

Papersowl contacts


Just fill out the form, press the button, and have no worries!

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related emails.

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.