Punctuation & Grammar Rules For Academic Writing – A Must-Read For Students

by johnpeter
academic writing

Punctuation and grammar rules must be observed in academic writing. Any divergence from the standard punctuation and grammar rules is a sin; therefore, it is imperative for students to get familiar with the rules. Many students fail to write with proper grammar, and they are not aware of when and where punctuation marks should be used. Grammar and punctuation are the major components of academic writing, and this article will discuss the important rules in academic writing.

What Are The Rules Of Grammar And Punctuation In Academic Writing?

Let us analyse the rules for grammar and punctuation separately.

Grammar Rules

They are basically the syntax structure that makes the writing legible and correct according to the standards of the English language. Grammar rules entail writing clear and short sentences. It requires using correct forms of verbs and agreement between subjects and verbs. The clauses must be joined to write a meaningful sentence. Here are a few grammar rules for academic writing:

Sentence Structure

Sentences have the following features: a capital letter at the beginning, a full stop, an exclamation point, a question mark and a verb. Students frequently commit the error of not using whole sentences when writing. They either write very long, confusing sentences that could be easily broken up into smaller ones or neglect to include a key clause in their phrase.

Generally speaking, short, simple phrases are more impactful than long, convoluted ones. Any lengthy sentences should be broken up into two or three short sentences if you are unsure. If writing is difficult for you or if English is not your first language, take note of these suggestions. Short sentences will make it simpler for the reader to understand your point of view and will assist you in preventing grammatical errors. Each sentence you write should make logical sense when read aloud without referencing the one before it or following it.

Subject Verb Agreement

The next important grammatical rule for academic writing is ensuring subject-verb agreement. Subject-verb agreement means that if the subject of a sentence is singular, then the following must be singular. If the subject is singular and the following verb is plural, then the sentence is grammatically incorrect. Let us take a look at the following examples:

  • The merchant was killed in the war
  • The merchant were killed in the war

In the above-mentioned example, the first sentence is grammatically correct. In contrast, the second sentence is incorrect because the verb is not in harmony with the subject, i.e., the subject is singular, whereas the verb is plural. The sentence should have been, “The merchants were killed in the war”. A plural subject always takes a plural verb. There are some cases in which the sentence starts with a singular subject but tilts towards the plural. For instance:

  • A government official wants to know whether they are performing the specified tasks.

You can fix the above-mentioned sentence by turning both the subject and the verb into plurals. For example:

  • Government officials want to know whether they are performing the specified tasks.

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are also a point of confusion for students and especially in academic writing. They are used for a group of people such as army, crowd, fleet and jury. Let us review the following example:

  • The army is proceeding towards the Parliament House.

Now, the confusion arises due to the assumption that since the army comprises several people, it would take a plural verb. However, it is incorrect, and the sentences should be written like this:

  • The army is proceeding towards the Parliament House.

Punctuation Rules

Punctuation rules are imperative to follow in academic assignments. In spoken English, we naturally take pauses and state things; however, in writing, the reader needs to see the “signs” signified by the punctuation marks that signify pauses, sentence completion and a list of things. Punctuations are simple and fairly easy to learn.


A short pause in a sentence is indicated with a comma. If you discover that your writing tends to be lengthy, consider whether it could be preferable to break your sentences up into smaller chunks by substituting commas for full stops.

Dashes and Hyphens

Avoid using dashes as much as possible in your formal writing. They could appear to have an overly conversational style. When used in pairs, they can be used to include a brief list or an explanation:

  • The World War 1 – started in 1918 by – was the most devastating human conflict.

It is important to remember that dashes are not used in replacement of parentheses. Hyphens can be used in academic writing to connect two words or prefixes. For example:

  • First-in-command
  • Pre-evaluation


A substantial pause within a sentence is introduced with the colon. It divides two clauses that might each operate independently as a complete sentence but are related in meaning, nonetheless. There are four situations in which a colon may be used.

  • To introduce a list:

The job description entails various responsibilities: setting up appointments, facilitating the head of the department, raising a public requisition, and arranging events.

  • To introduce a quotation:

Marx explains alienation as: “Alienation is the separation of man from nature and the fruits of his labor in which the person loses his interaction with the nature and the creative impulses are oriented towards maximising the profits of the capitalists.”

  • A colon can be placed just before a clause that clarifies the prior statement. For example:

The New York University is a prestigious institute: the academic environment is conducive: the professors are competent, and the research work is emphasised.

  • To show contrast

He spends most of his time reading books: his parents think he is socially awkward.

Semi Colons

The most frequent usage of a semicolon is to join two independent clauses with similar ideas in a single phrase. When two or more concepts are joined in a sentence with a semicolon, the ideas then acquire an equal place or order.


Punctuation and grammar rules must be observed in academic writing. It requires paying attention to the sentence structure and writing clear sentences. The placement of punctuation must be according to the rules and to show pause, completion or introduce an idea related to the main sentence.

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