Punctuation is an area that can be easily overlooked by candidates who could be more concerned with producing correct sentences only in terms of verbs and tenses. What IELTS students need to remember is that punctuation forms part of your Grammar and Accuracy assessment, and neglecting this can cost you marks. In my experience teaching IELTS students and checking IELTS papers, I have come across different types of punctuation errors, but one that is most common is the misuse of the comma. In IELTS writing, candidates must be careful and avoid constructing one-sentence paragraphs punctuated with commas.
There are a few problems with this:
- Long sentences could mean inviting more mistakes and you may lose marks on Grammar and Accuracy where punctuation may be faulty, errors can cause some difficulty for the reader (Band 5)
- You may also lose marks on Coherence and Cohesion where paragraphing may be inadequate (Band 5)
- At the same time, this may affect marks on Task Response if the examiner cannot spot your topic sentences, which may have become entangled with other clauses within the paragraph, through excessive commas. (Band 4 – presents some main ideas but these are difficult to identify)
So, it may be wise to keep some sentences brief and easy to read. To get a Band 6 and above, candidates must show that they can use a mix of simple and complex sentence forms.
If you find this a difficult area, here are some websites to help explain how and when to use commas:
- Comma Use for English Learners
- Comma Use Quiz
- 15 Rules For Using A Comma
- Rules for Using Commas handout
- Punctuation – Commas
- Basic Writing for ESL Students
- 4 Tips for Correct Use of the Comma | Using the Comma in English
- Five basic punctuation rules for the comma
Until next time!