Monday, June 20, 2011

How to use Punctuation in Letter writting in English


Right punctuation should be used to make your meaning clear. Whether you are writing a complaint to a business concern, or an application for a job, making yourself clear is essential.

Every sentence requires a full stop at the end to show that it is completed, and long sentence may require one or more commas, a semi-colon or even a colon. Commas should not be scattered about; instead, each should indicate there is a pause in the sentence. In other words, there would be a physical pause to help make the meaning clear if the sentence were being read aloud. There should be a mental pause if the sentence is being read to oneself.

The purpose of the comma in bringing about a pause is the reason behind most of the ‘rules’ which have grown up about its usage. One of these rules is that when an adjective is immediately
followed by one or more adjectives, a comma is always placed after each except the last. For example, ‘I am selling a good car’,‘I am selling a good, economical car’, ‘I am selling a good,
economical, trustworthy car’. But if the succession of adjectives is interrupted by ‘and’, then this itself has the effect of creating a pause and you would write: ‘This is a good, economical and trustworthy car’.

Sometimes the use or non-use of a comma can affect the actual meaning of a sentence. If, for instance, you write: ‘I am returning your cheque, which lacks a signature’ you are really saying: ‘I am returning your cheque. It lacks a signature’. If, however, you leave out the comma and write: ‘I am returning your cheque which lacks a signature’, this means that you are returning one out of many cheques received, i.e., the one which lacks a signature.

In some cases the job done by commas can be carried out by brackets or by two dashes. These devices were more popular years ago, when sentences in most business letters, as well as some
private letters, tended to be longer than they are today. A long sentence spattered with commas can be confusing, however well they are used, and it was quite common to see such sentences as
‘Mr. Jones (who was not very co-operative at our last meeting) seemed most anxious to help, although it is still apparent, I am afraid, that he is not very much in favour of the scheme – if, in
fact, he is in favour of it at all – and that we may well face opposition in the future’.

Shorter sentences are less confusing, and the use of both brackets and dashes could be avoided. Do not use either, unless you feel that it is really necessary.

Other important marks of punctuation are the semi-colon and the colon. The semi-colon is used to break up a long sentence into more easily understood parts. The head of a firm might write, ‘We are going to give the staff an outing; we are going to take them to the Golden Beach for the day; and if the idea is a success we are going to repeat it next year’. The colon is used when you have to make a statement and then follow it up with an explanation. For example, ‘There were six of us present: Ram, John, Kumar, Mary, Mala and myself’.

If the colon is used before a number of words, phrases or even paragraphs, it shows that all these are governed by the preceding sentence, which does not have to be repeated. This is a way of setting it out:

Would you please note the following points?

1. Whatever dates are arranged, it is vital we are back in Chennai by the end of May.
2. The total cost of the trip must not exceed Rs.10,000/-
3. Train travel must be kept to a minimum.

A punctuation mark to avoid is the exclamation mark,particularly in business letters. In private correspondence it does not matter so much, but it should still be used with care. If you
feel that an exclamation mark is necessary and that the sentence is not sufficiently emphatic without it, try re-wording the sentence. There is no rule against writing: ‘You have done this entirely without my permission!’ but it is better to re-word the sentence as follows: ‘I want to protest strongly against this having been done without my permission’.

Another form of punctuation where caution should be taken is the inverted comma or quotation mark (either single or double), which is always used in pairs. There are three general uses for quotation marks:

1. To show the words between them are not the writer’s own, but someone else’s, and at the same time to emphasise their importance.
2. Another use of inverted commas is to show that a word or phrase is not used in its normal literal meaning. Thus you might write: ‘WhatI am most concerned about is the “atmosphere” of the meeting’.
3. The third use involves enclosing in inverted commas a phrase that is not normally used in a letter. You might write: ‘If we did this the younger members of the group would probably think that we were not “with it”.’

1 comment:

aruna neupane said...

wow!! here are so many tips related to punctuation in letter writing in english.

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