We all learn about grammar in primary school, but only after entering a role in which critical proofreading is essential did I realise just how often grammar is misused.
After an engaging 90-minute webinar on the topic of grammar, the biggest take-away for me was Emma Ewing’s discussion surrounding the comma and how overused it is. The comma is incredibly popular: it is easy to use, breaks up a sentence or list and is often the punctuation that comes most naturally to most of us.
Yet commas are widely used where they are unnecessary. Take a reworded version of this sentence for an example.
Yet, commas are widely used where they are unnecessary, take a reworded version of this sentence, for an example.
Painful to read, isn’t it? Not to mention un-engaging. Emma also noted the problems surrounding the hyphen – it can be perceived as laziness when used in formal writing as you don’t have to think too hard when you use it. Despite this, many of us on the webinar were self-confessed ‘dash-aholics’, heavily reliant on the hyphen in our day-to-day emails.
Emma suggested the colon as a great alternative to these overused punctuations: it is a great way to replace the word ‘because’, it amplifies meaning and seamlessly joins two sentences together.
Though commas and hyphens should never be replaced (they can be incredibly effective when used correctly), I certainly have tried to limit my use since this webinar and consciously evaluate the use of grammar in my written work.