Grammar and punctuation are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Grammar refers to the structure and organization of language, while punctuation refers to the symbols and marks that clarify meaning and aid in reading.
Grammar and punctuation work as a team in writing, so keep reading to learn more about their importance and linguistic relationship.
What Is Grammar?
Grammar is a language system. But more often than not, when you hear “grammar,” you think “rules.” For example, you can’t split infinitives or end a sentence with a preposition. These rules have been taught to English speakers around the world.
But grammar is more complex than that because grammar rules change as spoken language evolves. For example, if you examine Shakespeare’s work, he effectively standardized the English language by creatively ignoring grammar rules. He’s credited for inventing up to 1,700 new words for the English language, not including phrases he coined, such as “heart of gold” or “breaking the ice,” and he was fond of ending sentences with prepositions, which would give grammar purists a heart attack today.
While we still use many words and phrases today that came from Shakespeare, the way we use language and rules is very different. Therefore, while grammar organizes language and provides structure and meaning to words and word order, it’s fluid and ever-changing.
Regardless of how you view grammar, here are some common grammar rules that all English speakers use in spoken and written language:
● Subject–verb agreement
● Using “a,” “an,” and “the” with countable nouns
● Putting adjectives before the noun they modify
What Is Punctuation?
Formally, punctuation is the use of symbols and marks to clarify the meaning of written language, such as using commas between items in a list and adding a period to signal the end of a sentence. Punctuation helps readers understand the meaning of a sentence by indicating how words relate to one another.
As mentioned in the introduction, punctuation isn’t grammar – or at least, not quite. Punctuation falls into a different category called writing mechanics. In this category, you’ll also find spelling, capitalization, writing organization, and syntax (the list goes on!).
Think of writing mechanics as being under the umbrella of grammar. Together, grammar and writing mechanics create a system for people to write in a standardized way – with room to break rules, of course. To break the rules, though, it’s imperative that you understand them. So, it’s important to follow grammar and punctuation conventions to understand how and when rules can be bent.
How do Grammar and Punctuation Relate?
Grammar and punctuation are a team. They work side by side to create the guidelines that allow us to clearly communicate in written English. Whether you’re a native speaker or not, it’s imperative that you understand how to use grammar and punctuation correctly to produce clear and coherent writing.
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To illustrate this point, let’s look at a hilarious meme that went viral several years ago. It clearly shows how punctuation is a powerful tool in writing when used correctly or completely omitted.
The mistake here is a missing comma: “Let’s eat, grandpa!” In this context, a minor punctuation error can cost your grandpa’s life!
One more viral example of how punctuation is a powerful tool is in the following phrase. Depending on how you punctuate it, it takes different meanings.
A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
Through the power of punctuation, these words take opposite meanings depending on where you place a comma or colon. The first line implies that a woman is nothing without her man, while the second line implies that a man is nothing without a woman. Powerful stuff, right?
While punctuation is not grammar, it’s in the category of the mechanics of writing, which falls under the umbrella of grammar. Grammar provides structure and standardization to language rules, and punctuation assists in this process through symbols and marks that signify meaning to readers and writers.
Overall, it’s important to know English grammar and punctuation rules to effectively communicate in written language, whether you’re writing a business proposal or a social media post. Without it, the world would be chaos.
If you need help checking your grammar or punctuation in writing, our experts are here to help. Try our free trial today.
Can good punctuation make up for poor grammar?
No. While punctuation is important for readers to clearly understand your writing, grammar must also be correct for the words you use to have meaning. Both good grammar and punctuation are necessary for clear communication.
How do grammar and punctuation affect communication?
Proper grammar and punctuation usage result in clear and effective communication. Conversely, when grammar and punctuation are misused or absent in writing, it causes difficulties for readers.
How do different types of writing (e.g., academic, creative, business) use grammar and punctuation?
Grammar and punctuation rules are the same for all types of writing in English. The difference between different types of documents is in the word usage and overall tone, which can be accomplished through things like syntax and word choice.
How do grammar and punctuation differ in written vs. spoken language?
Punctuation does not exist in spoken language. Instead, we use pauses while speaking to indicate where a comma or period might be in writing. We also use different tones of voice to indicate questions or exclamations. Grammar rules are usually more flexible in spoken language because it’s spontaneous. In writing, grammar and punctuation rules should be strictly used.