Common Punctuation Errors

Correct punctuation is very important in Technical writing. Here are some common punctuation errors people make and how you can avoid making them.

Use of Serial Comma

Serial comma (also called an Oxford comma) is a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction (“and” or “or”) in a series of three or more terms. It is the final comma in a list of things.

For example:

“The ABC committee has designed all the functional, design, and technical specs.”

Use of serial comma should be consistent throughout the document. A style that always uses the serial comma may be less likely to result in ambiguity.

For example:

“I love my friend, Minnie Mouse and Spider-man.”

Without the comma, the sentence could be interpreted as stating that you love your friend, and your friend is Minnie Mouse. The same sentence with the serial comma is written as:

“I love my friend, Minnie Mouse, and Spider-man.”

Abbreviations for Units of Measurement

Abbreviations for most units of measurement use small letters and periods. Temperature abbreviations use capitals because they come from proper nouns.

Abbreviations for metric units (cm, km, m, ft) and temperatures (Kelvin, Celsius) do not end with periods. An exception to this rule is inch (in.) which has a period after to differentiate it from the preposition “in”. Non-metric units with “per” (such as “miles per hour”) usually do not take periods, either.

There should always be a space between numbers and unit of measurement.

For example:

  • “The table is 20 cm in length.”
  • “The longest side of the triangle measures 20 in. more than the shortest side.”

Symbols of percent, degree, foot and inch go right after the number without any spaces.

For example:

  • 100%
  • 100°C
  • 5’4”

Units are made plural only when the numerical value that precedes them is more than one. Zero is an exception.

For example:

  • 25 liter
  • 250 milliliters
  • 0 inches

Symbols for units are never pluralized (250 mm = 250 millimeters).

Do not use comma for figures in the thousands. Also, leave the comma out of addresses, page numbers, decimal fractions and year-dates.

For example:

  • John spent $7500 on that car before selling it.
  • In 1998, Mary moved to NE 12887 53rd Avenue.
  • The quote is on page 3450.
  • The value of Pi to thirteen decimal places is 3.1415926535897.

When writing the date formally, consider your audience. Avoid using all-number notation for dates. Write out the entire date, including the name of the month to avoid confusion.

For example:

The meeting is scheduled for June 11, 2015.

In American English, it is common to use a period as an alternative style for certain abbreviations. Make sure that it is consistent throughout the document.

For example:

  • USA or U.S.A.
  • US or U.S.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *