Doctor Punctuation
August 24, 2012

Suppose you are presenting a speech. If you read too quickly, your audience will not be able to understand what you are saying. You also will need to stop and take a breath a few times as you read. How do you know where to pause, where to change your voice, and where to stop? You can use the punctuation marks you encounter as a guide for your pacing.
Punctuation marks provide visual clues to readers, telling them how the sentence should be read.
Some punctuation marks tell you that you are reading a list of items, while other marks tell you that a sentence contains two independent ideas. Punctuation marks tell you not only when a sentence ends, but also what kind of sentence you have read. This essay covers different types of punctuation and how they can be used in sentences to convey meaning.
One of the punctuation clues to reading you may encounter is the comma (,). The comma is a punctuation mark that indicates a pause in a sentence, or a separation of things in a list. Commas can be used in a variety of ways. You may notice a comma that appears near the beginning of the sentence, usually after a word or phrase. This comma lets the reader know where the introductory word or phrase ends and the main sentence begins. When you want to list several nouns in a sentence, you separate each word with a comma. This allows the reader to pause after each item and identify which words are included in the grouping. When you list items in a sentence, put a comma after each noun, then add the word and before the last item. However, you do not need to include a comma before the last item.
You can use commas to list adjectives as well as nouns. A string of adjectives that describe a noun are called coordinating adjectives. These adjectives come before the noun they modify and are separated by commas. One important thing to note, however, is that unlike listing nouns, the word and does not always need to be before the...