The Pippin A-Z of Copywriting: Punctuation

in Top copywriting tips

Punctuation, like spelling, is a tool of the copywriting trade. It’s important you pay attention to the rules if you want to get your message across. Why?

  • Because it can radically change the meaning of what you’re trying to say. For example, saying ‘our customer’s opinions are important to us’ reveals your business isn’t very successful (because the position of the apostrophe means you’re talking about a single customer not many customers).
  • Because people (like me) worry about punctuation errors. When a business puts out information that’s poorly punctuated, the poor punctuation in itself won’t affect their ability to do a good job – knowing how to use brackets is important for my work; it’s less so for a florist, a plumber, a double glazing salesman etc. On the other hand, the fact they haven’t checked (or had checked) what they’re putting out there could suggest they don’t really care – and that attitude does affect their ability to do a good job.

Having said all that, it’s worth bearing in mind that:

  • punctuation rules change over time, so what some people regard as wrong could simply be a matter of fashions changing. For example, commas used to be a lot more prevalent than they are now.
  • and following on from that, while there are a few hard and fast rules about punctuation it’s important to get right to avoid being judged, many are fluid, debatable and obscure to the point of not needing to be worried about in most instances.

My advice?

  • If you’d like to brush up on your punctuation, Eats Shoots and Leaves is a great place to start.
  • If you know punctuation isn’t your strong point, ask someone else (who’s better at it than you) to check over anything you write for publication, just to be on the safe side.

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