This post has been written in coordination with the latest episode of the TEFL Commute podcast, which I produce with Lindsay Clandfield and Shaun Wilden. You can listen to the episode on our website by clicking here.
Occasionally I’ve had a student who doesn’t seem to realise that punctuation, capitalisation and spacing are actually things that really matter when writing. Spaces are deposited at random places. Commas are used in between what should definitely be two different sentences. Sometimes punctuation is omitted completely, and you’re left with a piece of writing that resembles a stream of consciousness that you have to try and unpack. ‘English’ is continually written as ‘english’.
I tend to be quite strict with these things, even at a lower level (it’s good to get them out of these habits early, I think) so I talk about it with my students and point it out in their writing feedback.
There is a temptation to ignore these points which must be resisted, I think. It’s very easy to think that the priority must be the vocabulary and grammar, and while I would agree with that, it doesn’t have to come at the expense of form. If the students are writing in the first place, they need to understand that in a professional capacity, which is how most students will use their writing abilities in English, poor writing can create a lasting and damaging impression.
It’s not the most exciting subject, to be fair, but thanks to the Internet, there are a wealth of images you can use with your students to demonstrate the importance of punctuation.
And a couple of spacing ‘fails’…