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Practise punctuation for spoken English too for effective communication

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In the US, 24th of September each year is marked as the World Punctuation Day. That there is a separate day honouring proper punctuation, indicates its importance in ensuring the correctness and beauty of the English language.

 

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Examples galore of how the complete meaning of a sentence can change with the incorrect use of punctuation. Here are three examples from a blog post that highlight this aspect.

 

“We’re going to learn to cut and paste kids!” versus “We’re going to learn to cut and paste, kids!” Commas certainly do make a difference.

“Let’s eat, grandpa” versus “Let’s eat grandpa”. Punctuation can potentially save lives!

“Thank you! Your donation just helped someone. Get a job.” Compare this with ““Thank you! Your donation just helped someone get a job.” Which on do you think was the intended statement?

Of course, punctuation is usually associated with written text. However, it’s importance in spoken English cannot be underestimated. The sub-conscious use of punctuation in spoken English gives a good indication of one’s command over English speaking. It takes skill and practice to master using the right punctuation when speaking.

 

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For example, if you intend to ask a question, how to frame the sentence and speak it will determine whether the sentence has indeed come across as a question to the listener. Similarly, you can convey the use of a full-stop, a comma or an exclamation point by the manner in which you speak a particular sentence in English.

 

Note that listeners interpret and understand what you are saying based on, among other things, what and how they’ve heard what you said. The volume and tone of a sentence, or the pauses used in between, convey a lot more meaning than what you may think.

 

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Listen carefully and try to visualise the speaker and make yourself aware of the subtle changes in the flow of a sentence. Developing this ability to listen carefully and discern the ‘unseen’ punctuation will not only be helpful in better understanding of listening comprehension tests that form part of English proficiency tests such as IELTS but will also stand you in great stead throughout life.

 

How can you practise using the right punctuation when you speak in English? Here is one simple technique that you can adopt -- many English teachers use this method in the classrooms in school. Practise reading stories/skits in English -- you may either have different people read out parts pertaining to different characters, or you may yourself read out the different parts. Simply ensure you get into the skin of the character you are reading for, and as you read out, speak as if that particular character is reading out.

 

Practising like this will definitely help you get the right expression and modulation in your communication, which will certainly make it very effective.

 

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-By Chander Madan

 

 

    

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