How to Edit Your Site Copy: Commas, Quotation Marks and Semicolons

Get it right, or scare people away.
Get it right, or scare people away.

Edit Your Site Copy

Creating good copy is important to a writer like myself. It should be important to business owners, too. Copy full of errors looks unprofessional and can really turn off potential customers. You don’t want to be lumped in with the scam sites!

Emails, blogs, and chat rooms encourage speed over accuracy, lulling business owners into the feeling that close is good enough.  If you plan on being successful, though, almost isn’t good enough. Here are some tips to help you get closer to perfection.

When to Use Commas

One of the most common problems even more skilled writers run into is how to use commas properly. A comma is defined as a punctuation mark used to indicate the  separation  of  ideas  or  elements  or  a  pause  in  a sentence.

The biggest misuse of commas is often overuse. When in doubt, use a comma when there is an audible pause while saying the sentence out loud.
For example:

Jan, can you write the story, please?

This sentence has definite pauses when said aloud. Proper use of commas also keeps the meaning of a sentence clear.

For example:

Wrong – Jan loves to draw fish and write.

Jan likes to draw fish?

Right – Jan loves to draw, fish and write.

Notice  that  a  comma  wasn’t used after  the  word “fish.”  It has become common to leave off the comma before “and” in a series, especially if you are writing for magazines or other “journalistic” forms of writing.

The last use of a comma is with a direct name or title.

For example:

The writer and artist, Jan, is my old friend.


Would you draw me a picture, Jan?


Jan Lang, Ph.D., is the author of some impressive articles.

editor for websiteWhen to Use Quotation Marks and Punctuation

Using punctuation with quotation marks isn’t the mystery some think it is. In fact, there are only two major rules to remember:

Always use punctuation inside the quotation marks.

For example:

“I have the article done. It only took me a week to do.”


Jan said, “It took me only a week.”

Always use a comma before or after a quote is introduced.

For example:

Jan said, “I have the article done.”


“I have the article done,” cried Jan.

“Said” in the first sentence tells you that  a  quote  is  coming  so  it  is  followed  by  a  comma.

In  the  second  sentence,  “cried  Jan”  tells  you  who  just made  the  quote.  In this case, there is a comma before “cried.”  Remember, the punctuation is always found inside the quotation marks.

When to Use a Semicolon

Semicolons   are   an   unloved   punctuation,   mostly because it is misunderstood.  If used correctly, though, semicolons are an easy way to spice up a writer’s prose, or at least show an editor that the writer is competent.

The rule to follow is: If there are two sentences that are complete thoughts and don’t have a conjunction, you can use a semicolon to join them.

For example:

Jan’s article is interesting; it is full of great quotes.

Sure,   you could   put   a   period   between   these two statements, but it sounds so much better with a   semicolon.   Basically,   a   semicolon   shows   a   close relationship between two sentences and a pause just a little shorter than a period, but longer than a comma.

Now  that  your copy  is treated with respect,  romance  will  be  on  the  way.  Your customers will undoubtedly fall in love with the work and you can ride off into the sunset with a check in-hand.

Don’t feel like learning how to create error-free copy? Contact me and I can take care of it for you.

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