Lesson #121: The Smallest Element in Writing That is Often Overlooked

There are numerous factors that must be considered when writing well. Grammar. Vocabulary. Clear thoughts.

But one of the most overlooked of all is PUNCTUATION.

The right commas, semicolons and periods (along with the appropriate use of brackets, dashes, and hyphens) can ‘make or break’ a sentence. 

In many ways, I believe that if you understand and use punctuation correctly, your English will rise to a whole new level. 

Why is this? 

Because punctuation allows you to arrange more complex clauses or phrases with CLARITY. 

💡 This ability to express subtle, nuanced thoughts is what distinguishes advanced learners from their peers.

In this passage from Charlotte Bronte’s Villette (1853), we can see how the author used both commas and semicolons to separate and connect different thoughts. 

✏️As a reminder: semicolons separate two closely connected yet independent clauses whenever there is no conjunction between them.

These are especially important in WRITTEN ENGLISH. In oral English, we tend to breathe, pause slightly or speak more emphatically wherever a semicolon or even a comma would have been used in a parallel text version of the same.

✍️ You can practise your appreciation of punctuation just by reading the quotation below aloud. Make sure you take the time to breathe, pause or properly emphasise the different clauses and thoughts they express.

🥀’I like to see flowers growing, but when they are gathered, they cease to please. I look on them as things rootless and perishable; their likeness to life makes me sad. I never offer flowers to those I love; I never wish to receive them from hands dear to me.’

― Charlotte Brontë, Villette

by J. E. Gibbons

English language tutor and researcher at 'Learn English Through Literature' (2024)