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Punctuation. Welcome to GCSE Punctuation. Don’t worry if you are not a GCSE English student. This presentation is for anyone who wants to check out the basics of punctuation.

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Punctuation

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Punctuation

GCSE Punctuation


Welcome to GCSE Punctuation

Don’t worry if you are not a GCSE English student. This presentation is for anyone who wants to check out the basics of punctuation.

A click on the left mouse button will take you from slide to slide (use the up arrow on the key board if you want to go back).

GCSE Punctuation


If you come to a slide with a dark green background it means there is an activity to complete on the accompanying worksheet - a coloured pen would be useful for this. The answers then follow.There are 70 slides in all, so don’t expect to finish in one session – take your time.Here we go then…

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What is punctuation?

Punctuation consists of written marks which are primarily used to make clear to the reader how sentences are constructed.

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Without punctuation, a piece of writing can be very confusing. As you can see below:

I wake between 5 and 6am it’s already busy outside from my window I see the men collect the rubbish I check the weather by looking to see if people are carrying umbrellas

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Just putting in full stops at the end of a sentence and capital letters at the beginning makes it much easier to read:

I wake between 5 and 6am. It’s already busy outside. From my window I see the men collect the rubbish. I check the weather by looking to see if people are carrying umbrellas.

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So, you must think carefully about where your sentences should end and remember to put in a

full stop.

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ACTIVITY 1Practice putting full stops and capital letters in this passage:

I rarely have lunch occasionally, if I happen to be at home with my wife, we sometimes go to a restaurant afterwards we always walk along the sea front when I’m working, though, it’s usually just a matter of drinking some orange juice

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Answer

I rarely have lunch. Occasionally, if I happen to be at home with my wife, we sometimes go to a restaurant. Afterwards we always walk along the sea front. When I’m working, though, it’s usually just a matter of drinking some orange juice.

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Some sentences are questions, of course, so instead of a full stop, need a question mark (?):

Are you feeling lucky today?

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ACTIVITY 2If the sentences which follow are questions, put a question mark after them. If not put a full stop:

  • Have you got the time, please

  • There is no additional charge

  • Will you be seeing your uncle today

  • One of the players was sent off

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Answers

  • Have you got the time, please?

  • There is no additional charge.

  • Will you be seeing your uncle today?

  • One of the players was sent off.

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Occasionally sentences express (or exclaim) strong feelings, so an exclamation mark (!) is needed instead of a full stop:

I don’t believe it!

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ACTIVITY 3If the following sentences seem to express strong emotion put an exclamation mark after them. If not put a full stop:

  • I think I’ll have a cup of tea now

  • He’s the greatest player there’s ever been

  • Look out, it’s falling

  • I’m going to speak to Rodney about it

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Answers

  • I think I’ll have a cup of tea now.

  • He’s the greatest player there’s ever been!

  • Look out, it’s falling!

  • I’m going to speak to Rodney about it.

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Notice how you, as a writer, have to choose whether or not you want your sentence to express strong feelings. So punctuation is your choice to some extent. It is part of the meaning you want to get across to your reader.

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Sentences can have lots of different parts to them, so sometimes it is helpful to the reader to indicate where the parts begin and end.

This is what we mainly use commas (,) for.

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For example, the sentence below has two main parts and it is helpful to place a comma between them:

After they had finished shopping, they decided to see a film

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This next sentence also has two parts, but as they are joined by an ‘and’, no comma is needed:

They finished shopping and decided to see a film.

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ACTIVITY 4This sentence has a 2nd part squashed into the middle of the 1st part, so some commas could probably help make it clearer. Where would you put them?

The retired cricketer who was still fond of the game decided to become an umpire.

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Answer

The retired cricketer, who was fond of cricket, decided to become an umpire.

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ACTIVITY 5One of the following sentences probably doesn’t need any commas. The other does. Put commas in the one that does:

  • Though it had been raining all morning they had no intention of staying there even if it meant getting soaked.

  • Many of the points I am about to make will be perfectly obvious to most of you here today.

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Answers

  • Though it had been raining all morning, they had no intention of staying there, even if it meant getting soaked.

  • Many of the points I am about to make will be perfectly obvious to most of you here today.

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Using commas in this way is one of the most important aspects of punctuation. It’s all about forming clear sentences. So let’s have a bit more practice.

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ACTIVITY 6Put commas in the right places inthese two sentences:

  • Each day after work when I’ve finished tidying up I pour myself a big glass of wine remembering to feed the cat first then relax in a hot bath.

  • Michael walked to the restaurant found a table ordered a starter and carefully loaded his gun.

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Answers

  • Each day after work, when I’ve finished tidying up, I pour myself a big glass of wine, remembering to feed the cat first, then relax in a hot bath.

  • Michael walked to the restaurant, found a table, ordered a starter and carefully loaded his gun.

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Now, I hope you’ve not been flicking through these ‘slides’ too quickly! Remember there’s a test at the end. Take your time.

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Let’s review what we’ve learnt:

  • Punctuation marks are used to guide the reader about the meaning of sentences and how they are constructed.

  • Remember to finish each sentence with a full stop.

  • Or with question marks or exclamation marks if they are that sort of sentence.

  • Commas are used to make clear the different parts of a sentence.

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Here are some other things you can use commas for:

  • To mark off the words in a list (eg He bought a plate, a spoon, a cup and a knife).

  • To separate the names of people from the rest of the sentence (eg Where are you going, Michael?).

  • To separate extra bits of description from the rest of a sentence (eg Mary, a mathsstudent, was weak at algebra.)

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ACTIVITY 7Put the necessary commas into this sentence:

On a bright sunny afternoon in March 1959 Robert Foster a young scientist nearly killed himself by holding his breath underwater for thirteen minutes forty two and a half seconds a world record which still stands.

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How did you get on with that one? You needed to separate out the describing words (bright, sunny,) put commas around the guy’s name and around the description of him as ‘a young scientist’, and then make all those minutes and seconds clear – so it should look more or less like this:

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Answer

On a bright, sunny, afternoon in March 1959, Robert Foster, a young scientist, nearly killed himself by holding his breath underwater for thirteen minutes, forty two and a half seconds, a world record which still stands.

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ACTIVITY 8Here’s one more to try:

From my desk which is placed under the window I can see the railway lines a car park several lines of flapping multicoloured washing and a distant church tower.

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Answer

From my desk, which is placed under the window, I can see the railway lines, a car park, several lines of flapping, multicoloured, washing and a distant church tower.

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You’re doing very well. We’ve got to look at semi-colons, colons and brackets, and then we’ve nearly finished!

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Sometimes you want a stronger break in a sentence than a comma, but you don’t want a full stop. This is where the semi-colon (;) comes in useful.

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For example, this is two sentences:

Michael knew he would be in big trouble. Later that day his fears were confirmed.

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But the ideas are so closely related it would be better to put them into the same sentence. A comma would be too ‘weak’ a break. A semi-colon is just the job:

Michael knew he would be in big trouble; later that day his fears were confirmed.

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So remember:

  • Comma = weak break

  • Semi-colon = stronger break

  • Full stop = strongest break

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ACTIVITY 9One of these sentences needs a semi-colon, the other just needs a comma. Which is which?

  • After leaving the class Ray chatted to Jackie

  • You go if you want to I’m certainly not going!

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Answer

  • After leaving the class, Ray chatted to Jackie

  • You go if you want to; I’m certainly not going!

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Semi-colons can be very useful in sentences where there are lots of commas. As you see below, such sentences can look confusing:

The student’s essay was said to be poorly structured, with no clear beginning or end, lacking in consistent punctuation, clumsy, vague and misguided in meaning, altogether, not very good.

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Can you see how some parts of the sentence needed stronger breaks than others? Using semi-colons for those parts can make it much clearer

The student’s essay was said to be poorly structured, with no clear beginning or end; lacking in consistent punctuation; clumsy, vague and misguided in meaning; altogether, not very good.

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ACTIVITY 10This sentence needs both commas and semi-colons. Use the latter where a stronger break is needed.

Some of the men wore jackets ties and smart shoes others wore denims t-shirts and trainers only Bob was dressed appropriately.

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Answer

Some of the men wore jackets, ties and smart shoes; others wore denims, t-shirts and trainers; only Bob was dressed appropriately.

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Semi-colons can also be useful when you want to highlight an important part of a sentence. They put a stronger break before it:

He opened the box, looked at the ticking clock, realised it was a bomb; then he ran like hell!

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Don’t worry too much aboutcolons (:). They are just used to introduce lists or explanations:

You’ll need these things: a hammer, a large brown bag and a pot of glue.

I’ll tell you why: because you’re hopeless!

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ACTIVITY 11One of these sentences needs a colon, the other needs a semi–colon.

  • They returned hurriedly from London next day they would start afresh.

  • There is only one reason why boys do better in school than girls they’re cleverer!

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Answers

  • They returned hurriedly from London; next day they would start afresh.

  • There is only one reason why boys do better in school than girls: they’re cleverer!

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You may remember that when we add a bit of extra information into a sentence, we put commas around it:

Michael, who was the tallest boy in the class, was asked to help paint the ceiling

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Well, some kinds of writing like reports, notes and manuals have to pack in an awful lot of extra information. This is where brackets ( ) can be very useful to keep everything nice and clear:

Wordsworth (born 1770, died 1850) was the oldest of the Romantic poets.

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You can see in that last example how the brackets really help the eye of the reader to separate out the bit which is additional to the main part of the sentence. Commas wouldn’t have been strong enough, as you can see:

Wordsworth, born 1770, died 1850, was the oldest of the Romantic poets.

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If brackets seem a bit too strong but commas not strong enough, then you could use dashes (-) :

Janet – having finished her exams – flew to Spain for a holiday.

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Dashes can also be used to tag on information at the end of a sentence (but try not to use them where commas or other punctuation marks would normally be used):

She won the cup again this year – would you believe it?

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So remember:

  • Commas = weak separation

  • Dashes = stronger separation

  • Brackets = strongest separation

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ACTIVITY 12In the following examples the extra information is underlined . Decide whether to use commas, dashes or brackets:

  • There’s no way even if you paid a million pounds that I’m doing that!

  • John Major the last Tory PM loved cricket.

  • Biggleswade 3 miles from Gracton and 2 miles from Hebbley is not an easy place to reach.

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Answers

  • There’s no way - even if you paid a million pounds - that I’m doing that!

  • John Major, the last Tory PM , loved cricket.

  • Biggleswade (3 miles from Gracton and 2 miles from Hebbley) is not an easy place to reach.

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Let’s review what we’ve learnt:

  • Semi-colons are used where a stronger break than a comma is required.

  • Colons introduce lists or explanations.

  • Dashes and brackets are used to place additional information into sentences.

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And so we come to the dreaded…

apostrophe!

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Oh, stop panicking - it’s not that bad!

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An apostrophe looks like a comma, but it’s up in the air and it comes before an ‘s’ like this:

’s

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And you use it at the end of words which have something belonging to them. So ‘Susan football’ becomes:

Susan’s football

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ACTIVITY 13Put an apostrophe and an ‘s’ on the end of any words which need them in these sentences:

  • He went to Nick house to get the keys.

  • The car tyres were dangerously worn.

  • Angela friend had feelings for Nick brother.

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Answers

  • He went to Nick’s house to get the keys.

  • The car’s tyres were dangerously worn.

  • Angela’s friend had feelings for Nick’s brother.

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You see that wasn’t so bad.

Admittedly, though, there is a small complication – what happens if the word already ends in ‘s’?

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Well, then you still add the apostrophe, but not the 2nd ‘s’. So, if there’s a bloke called John Keats and he writes some poems, then it’s:

John Keats’ poems

not

John Keats’s poems

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ACTIVITY14Put an apostrophe or apostrophe ‘s’ where needed in these sentences:

  • The six girls dresses each had a ribbon attached.

  • All of Alice friends mothers went to the party.

  • John Keats borrowed his friends pen.

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Answers

  • The six girls’ dresses had a ribbon attached.

  • All of Alice’s friends’ mothers went to the party.

  • John Keats borrowed his friend’s pen.

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By the way, you also use apostrophes when you squash words together and miss out letters. Like this:

  • You are = you’re

  • It is = it’s

  • They are = they’re

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You’ve finished! Now go and pass that test. You know you can do it.

Well done!

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The sun has set on your punctuation course. Best wishes.

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