Improve your writing grades with: Punctuation!

October 08, 2019

Do you want to know an easy way to quickly improve your grades in your written work?

Simple: SPAG!

SPAG stands for spelling, punctuation and grammar and in the AQA English Language exam it’s worth 16 out of the 40 marks available.

The trick to securing as many of these marks for yourself as possible though is not just to simply make sure you correctly spell, punctuate and write in a grammatically correct way, it’s to make sure you show off your skills! This means that you need to make sure you are consciously crafting your writing to ensure as wide a range of skills as possible.

The rest of this post will focus on punctuation and how to increase your marks here. Look out for future posts about other aspects of SPAG and writing skills.

Punctuation for GCSE and A Level students.

Did you know there are 11 separate types of punctuation that GCSE and A Level students are expected to know and use? Count them:

  • The full stop .
  • The comma   ,
  • The ellipsis  ...
  • The semi-colon  ;
  • The colon   :
  • The exclamation mark    !
  • The question mark   ?
  • The brackets   (….)
  • The speech marks   “……”
  • The dash   -
  • The apostrophe    ‘


When your examiner marks your work, they are looking to award you for your use of punctuation. If you’ve played safe and used only the basics then however accurate your work is, you have limited your marks. The examiner can only award what you have written.

To really ensure you get the best grade you can, you need to be carefully crafting your work to include as many of these different punctuation types as possible.

Now, many students complain that using all these different punctuation types seems, well, forced. That no one in the real word writes in this way and it just feels plain weird to be ticking off a list of punctuation as you include it.

I agree. It is pretty weird. However, the exam boards are looking to reward you for your punctuation so you, as an intelligent student aiming for the best grade possible, are going to provide it.

Have a look at these two examples:

Example 1:

I believe that all students should be taught the importance of using a range of punctuation. It’s not just that it makes your work easier to read, it’s that it lifts it up and creates a more interesting, readable text. There are 11 different types of punctuation available but so many writers limit themselves by using just the boring full stop and comma. This is madness and severely limits their grade. Enough.

Example 2:

I believe that all students should be taught the importance of using a range of punctuation (and that includes you too!). It’s not just that it makes your work easier to read - it lifts it up and creates a more interesting, readable text.

There are 11 different types of punctuation available: yes, eleven! So why do so many writers limit themselves by using just the boring full stop and comma? This is madness and severely limits their grade. Enough, I say. Enough!


Okay, so this isn’t the world’s most interesting text (unless you’re an English teacher like me, in which case it’s really interesting!). It does demonstrate though how even quite a dull text can be lifted by using a range of punctuation.

Go back and count how many different types of punctuation each text uses.

Go on.

Finished?

Example 1 uses three separate types – the full stop, comma and apostrophe. The text is fine. It makes sense, it’s easy to follow but it’s dull.

Example 2 on the other hand uses seven – the full stop, comma, apostrophe, brackets, dash, exclamation mark and question mark. It’s still the same text but this time the writer has consciously crafted it to include a greater range of punctuation - which in translates into marks.

How to improve your own use of punctuation:

If using a range of punctuation in your written work doesn’t come naturally to you, then you need to practise.

Write a list of all 11 types of punctuation at the top of the page you are about to write on and tick them off as you include them. In a text of less than 200 words you are aiming to include around 5 different types of punctuation, in a text over this length you are aiming to include all of them. This will take practise.

Just as including a full range of punctuation is important, it is also important not to overdo it. You should have no more than one colon and semi-colon in a text and be sparing with the brackets, ellipsis and brackets. Overuse shows your examiner that you don’t really know what you’re doing and will cost you marks.

You will also need to make sure you understand what all the types of punctuation are used for because, like overuse, incorrectly used punctuation will also cost you.

If you'd like to learn how to improve your punctuation, message me.

Here's to your success!



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