IELTS Preparation: Expert Tips On Punctuation - IELTS University (Singapore)

IELTS Preparation: Expert Tips On Punctuation

Many IELTS candidates do not understand why punctuation is such an important skill to master for the IELTS writing exam. This is mainly because punctuation is not really something that is necessary when we speak or communicate in English in our daily lives, and knowledge about punctuation has sort of becoming obsolete with the advent of word processing software like Microsoft Word and Grammarly, which often automatically corrects our punctuation mistakes as we make them. Therefore, many people are often unaware that they even make that many punctuation mistakes.

Why Punctuation Is Important

If you make several careless punctuation mistakes this will negatively affect your grammatical range and accuracy score.

Common Punctuation Mistakes

Full Stops Or Periods

This one is a simple one, that most of you already know. We use a period or a full stop to denote the end of a sentence. It is not used for any other purpose than that.

The Comma

This is a punctuation mark that often stumps students. I often find students adding it in every sentence unnecessarily or not adding it all. It all boils down to the fact that they are unaware of when to use it. Let us tackle this issue head-on

We use a comma to separate items in a list. For example,

I have been to Germany, France, and Italy

We use commas to separate two consecutive adjectives

A little, green teaspoon

Commas are also used to separate non-essential information.

The teacher, who was Singaporean, enjoyed giving lectures.

We use a comma after a conjunctive adverb or transitional element:

  • Maryam finished her homework early; therefore, she was allowed extra screen time.

We also use a comma to separate independent clauses from dependent clauses, For example,

  •  When the boys came home from school, they were always hungry.

Commas are also used when we mention dates. For example

June 14th, 2021

In the IELTS writing test, we often use phrases called ‘discourse markers’ or ‘liking phrases’ to link our ideas together, such as, firstly, secondly, in conclusion, in summary. We normally use a comma after a discourse marker that introduces a sentence:

Firstly, the main cause of pollution is motor vehicles.

On the one hand, motor vehicles are said to be the main cause.

Comma Splice

We do not use a comma to separate two independent clauses, that are unrelated to each other. This error is called a comma splice. In this case, we would be better off separating the clauses to form two separate sentences.


The semi-colon is another punctuation mark that is tough to use and to be honest I often tell my students to just avoid it at all costs and think of another way to phrase their sentences. This is because it is not always easy to decide when you need a semicolon.

A semi-colon is usually used to join two independent clauses in a compound sentence, but only if the meaning of each clause is closely related to each other. For example,

  • The days were beginning to get shorter; it seemed the night got earlier and earlier.

If you have any further questions about these common punctuation mistakes, or you have some other suggestions about other punctuation topics that you would like for me to tackle, then feel free to leave a comment down below!