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The Iris Content Masterclass Series: How to Use Punctuation to Your Advantage

The power of punctuation is frequently overlooked within various forms of content – especially online content (such as blogs, articles and social media posts). Some feel as if there is no need to control how many punctuation marks are used and go overboard while others apparently feel as if these markings are not as important and hardly use them at all.

Do you want to boost the captivation of your content and enhance your skills as a writer? You must appreciate and apply the golden rule that breaks down the proper relationship between content and punctuation: Your content is a car and punctuation marks are the pedals.

It is true that the overall content is designed to get your readers and viewers from Point A to Z or Start to Finish just like a car. However, you must use punctuation marks as skillfully and cautiously as you use acceleration and brake pedals to help control that car on the road. Here are several effective tips, tricks, strategies and suggestions that will help you to take full advantage of punctuation regardless of the type of content created:

Reading the “Traffic Light” of Periods, Semicolons and Parentheses

As you strive to appreciate the value of using such punctuation markings as periods, semicolons and parentheses, an interesting concept to apply is to interpret the markings the same as you would road signs or traffic lights. You could essentially say that those specific punctuation tools correspond with the green, yellow and red lights of the traffic light. How so?

  • Period – Red Light: At a red light, everything comes to a screeching halt. You are required to apply the brakes and stay put until you get the signal to accelerate. You must use the periods in your content the same way – especially if you are presenting the material or reading it out loud to an audience.


  • Semicolon – Yellow Light/Yield Sign: The semicolon does not require a full stop. On the contrary, it indicates the need to exercise caution and slow down briefly just to ensure a smooth flow of traffic. Since semicolons are used to separate and organize substantial parts of your content, it is imperative to exercise this caution when creating content.


  • Parentheses – Green Light: It is important to remain focused on the road and cautious when driving through a green light – especially if you are crossing through a four-way intersection in which you are not clear what is going on with the other cars crossing at the same time. However, the green light does not require you to stop driving just like the parentheses do not require one to stop reading. You can simply “drive around them” to continue your journey of core content.

Excessive Exclamation Marks Repel, Not Attract Readers

When you talk and want to express your excitement or passion, you rely on vocal variety and reflection to relay those emotions through spoken word. On the other hand, it takes a little more artistry and creativity when you try to express the same emotions through the printed page. Most inexperienced writers decide to take the “shortcut” of adding an excessive number of exclamation marks.

Perhaps within a page of dialogue between two characters during a heated discussion or even within the lines of advertising copy or a product review, you may find a seemingly endless list of exclamation marks from top to bottom.

You must exercise moderation and control when adding exclamation marks to your content if you plan to captivate and keep the attention of your readers and viewers. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to highlight the specific text on which you want your readers to focus – which will lead to them becoming more attracted to your competitors than you.

Should a Writer Ever Use Dashes?

You may have read (or even created) a vast amount of content that is filled with dashes within a considerable number of sentences. Some have shied away from using dashes in their content due to the common belief that a dash is unprofessional and grammatically incorrect within the standard document. On the contrary, the appropriate and modest use of a well-placed dash can do wonders for the appeal to and the engagement of your work.

For instance, a dash is usually designed within content for one of four different reasons:

  1. Break up the written dialogue to accurately reflect hesitations in speech, interrupted conversations and unexpected pauses. Within screenplays and books, this type of punctuation makes it crystal clear how the actor or character should present the line.
  1. Break up the monotony of excessive commas. In wordy sentences with extensive lists, it may create an overload of commas. Seasoning the sentence with dashes instead of excessive commas adds flavor to the content without distorting the message.
  1. Shine an emphatic spotlight on certain text. If you want to emphasize a specific selection of content, a well-placed set of dashes peaks the curiosity of your readers and draws their attention. Some say that a dash is essentially the opposite of parentheses. As parentheses are used to reduce the emphasis of a selection of text (like a whisper), dashes are designed to increase the overall dramatic nature and emphasis of the text.

Use Vocal “Test Drives” to Analyze Your Content Flow

If you want to have an honest perspective of your content flow, it is highly recommended to read it back as part of your proofreading process. In addition to finding overlooked typos and other errors, it will also give you a chance to make any necessary changes to the punctuation marks used within the content. Perhaps the read-through will help you to see areas where additional punctuation marks are needed.

On the other hand, it may also help you to identify specific areas where too much punctuation was used. The best approach to take is to read the content aloud. Why? Doing so will give you a chance to hear the punctuations – analyzing the pauses, vocal variety and overall dynamic shifts from start to finish to ensure it matches your original intent for the content.

With this Masterclass Series, our skilled team here at Iris Content will provide real, honest insight into the world of content creation.

If doing the content part of your strategy still scares you, if you would love to do it yourself but lack the know-how and think that it is an unattainable goal, we want to help you achieve this task.

Without any misconceptions, any attempt to draw you in for a sale, without any hidden agenda. We want you to learn how to do it!

We want you to succeed in an ever-growing, killer competitive market where the volatility of rules makes it difficult to get there and stay at the top. All throughout the month, we will try to teach you a few of the basics of content creation and at the end, gather it together in a fully downloadable resource. Good luck and happy reading!

Annie Ianko

Chief Content Officer

Annie has over 20 years of experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.

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