Correct use of punctuation is important in any language. If you are preparing for a Spanish exam, you’ll need to make sure your punctuation is tiptop for the best mark. Likewise, if you need Spanish for work and you are in constant contact with clients, it would be embarrassing to makes silly spelling mistakes or miss out commas, accents or question marks. I’m here to give you a few tips on common mistakes in Spanish and how to avoid them.
Inverted Question and Exclamation Marks
This is an essential part of Spanish punctuation that is quite often forgotten about. An exclamation or a question is not properly formed if it does not have the inverted mark before the first word and the regular mark at the end of the phrase or question. With the rise of “text talk” over social media websites, many people, even native speakers, are leaving out the first question or exclamation mark as it is not convenient to type it out. However, while this may be part of a language shift, at least for now it is still an important part of Spanish orthography and should be employed where necessary, but most importantly in formal contexts. If you are writing an email to a client or your boss, if you are trying to pass an exam or enquiring to a company about a service, remember to use the inverted marks. You can download keyboards, according to the computer that you have, so that you can learn to type them quickly!
Whereas in English we like to keep our sentences relatively short, using few commons where necessary and end them with a nice big full stop, Spanish is quite different. In fact, Spanish is renowned for producing extra long sentences, which sometimes appear to have no end! For this reason, native English speakers find it difficult to get into the habit of creating long sentences using numerous commas, but be aware that this is very common and completely acceptable. So, next time you are reading a paper, a letter, a story or an email and it seems that one sentence is going on forever, don’t worry, it wasn’t written by a child and it is standard in Spanish!
It is important to get your accents right in Spanish – firstly because otherwise it looks scruffy, and secondly, because it is required for pronunciation. Accents mark where the stress falls on the word. Usually, the stress in Spanish words naturally falls on the penultimate syllable, for example “calle” is made up of two syllables: “ca” and “lle”. “Lle would be the ultimate syllable, and “ca” would be the penultimate syllable, so the stress falls on “ca”. If the stress does not fall on the penultimate syllable, you will need to add an accent, for example, “canción”, has an accent on the “ón” to emphasise that the stress when spoken must fall on the “ón” rather than “ci”.
All in all, if you want the best results, whether in school, at work, or in any other setting, punctuation is a must! If you need more in-depth explanations, have a search online for some valuable resources or ask your Spanish tutor for a lending hand!