Esoma Online Revision Resources

Writing - English Form 3


Meaning of Punctuation

Punctuation is the division of writing into sentences or phrases by using special marks such as full stops, question marks among others.

In written language, there is need to signal to the user when to stop, pause, raise and lower one's voice.

This is achieved by using various punctuation marks.

Punctuation marks should be used creatively and correctly for effective communication to take place.


By the end of the topic, you should be able to:

Use punctuation marks correctly in sentences .

View the following animations of commonly used punctuation marks

Four punctuation marks
Four punctuation marks will be covered in this topic,

namely, the colon, semi colon, the dash, and parenthesis .

The colon

A colon draws one's attention to what is to follow what has already been written.

The colon serves the following purposes in a piece of writing:

-introducing a list, for instance,

The farmer grows the following types of fruits in his ochard: mangoes, oranges, straw berries, plums and peaches.

-to emphasise or clarify a statement, for instance,

What Jane needed after the long journey was one thing only: a glass of cold juice.

-to introduce a quotation, for instance,

Martin Luther King said: "Our lives begin to end the moment we keep quiet about the things that matter."

-indicate time in terms of hours and minutes when using numerals, for example,

3:10 which means ten minutes past three, not 3.10. You must use two dots.

-indicate a proportion; for instance, For best results, mix A and B in in the proportion of 2:4.

-in the writing of foot notes; for example:

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's, Petals of Blood

(Nairobi:EAEP, 1967.) p.34

Semi colon


It is a pause that is greater than a comma but lesser than a full stop

A semi colon is used to separate related independent clauses.

Consider the following examples.

The fire burned fiercely; the buildings were razed to the ground.

The school was silent; the students had gone home.

A semi colon can be used before the following sentence connectors:

Therefore, besides, nevertheless, however and moreover.

This indicates the close connection between two clauses.

Consider the following examples.

She passed her exams; therefore, she was selected to study medicine.

It was an expensive watch; nevertheless, it got spoilt.


A parenthesis is a sentence, phrase, word or number within a sentence which gives additional information without affecting the grammatical construction of the sentence.

The parenthesis can be ommited or dropped yet the sentence would still be grammatical.

A parenthesis encloses an explanation inserted in the body of a sentence, for example;

a ) We shall have two guests (the directors of Post Bank and Safaricom) addressing the congregation.

It also encloses an equivalence of an expression in a sentence.

b) She got one million US dollars (Kenyan shillings eighty million).

A parenthesis may be separated from the rest of the sentence by any of the following:

1. commas, for example,

Any sporting event, be it athletics or soccer, involves participants and spectators.

2. dashes, for example,

a.)The blind beggar-despite his suffering-kept on smiling.

brackets, for example,

b.) Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (1889-1978) was a great statesman.

Commas and dashes should be used when the interruption is closely related to the subject matter of the sentence while brackets are used to indicate a far removed intrusion as the above examples show.

Please note that, the Oxford Dictionary defines a parenthesis as an explanatory or qualifying word, clause, or sentence inserted into a passage with which it does not necessarily have any grammatical connection, and from which it is usually marked off by round or square brackets, dashes, or commas.

However, the term has come to be associated with brackets mainly in most contexts.


The dash can be used to show a break in thought or hesitation.


a ) Mwa - juma is la - lazy.

b ) If only Pauline were here - Dorothy will do.

The dash can be used to clarify an idea:

a ) We have two alternatives - to take what is offered or think of another option.

b ) The principal had to make a decision - to buy a gift or sponsor the poor student.

The dash can introduce a summarising statement:

a) Discipline, dedication and patience - are all values we should endeavour to have.

b) Turn taking, respecting one's space and early preparation - are essential - for a good discussion.


For you to understand this topic, you need adequate knowledge of the general layout of formal letters, the appropriate register as well as the addressing and the signing off procedures.

A formal letter is also referred to as an official or business letter. Let us remind ourselves of the parts an official letter has.


By the end of the topic, you should be able to:

Use appropriate register and format for a variety of writing tasks.


Letters may be classified broadly into either official or unofficial letters.

Official letters are also referred to as formal letters while unofficial letters are referred to as friendly or informal letters.

The formats of the two types of letters differ on various aspects .

This section will discuss the parts of a formal letter and then focus on the letter of application- a type of a formal letter.

Parts of a formal letter

A formal letter is also referred to as an official or a business letter.

There are various types of official letters such as letters of application, letters of apology, among others.

Let us remind ourselves of the parts of an official letter.

An official letter must have the following:

1. The sender's address.

Note that your name should not appear as part of your address.

2. The date, which is not part of the address, should appear one line below the sender's address.

3. The receiver's address.

4. The salutation, which is either 'Dear Sir' or 'Madam'

5. The subject, which is introduced by 'RE': and written in capital letters.

6. The content, which is also referred to as the body.

7. The complimentary close which must be "Yours faithfully"

8. The sender's signature.

9. The sender's name.

Letters of application

An illustration of a job advert

A young girl writing a letter of application

Layout of a letter of application

Since a letter of application is a type of official letter, its format will be as outlined above.


For you to understand this topic, you require adequate knowledge of the general layout about formal letters.

This is because when groups, societies, institutions or organizations wish to hold meetings, members of these organisations should be officially informed through a notice.

Similarly, we also have internal communication among members or between members and the management of an organisation.

This is done through an internal memorandum.


By the end of the topic, you should be able to:

Demonstrate competence in writing memos and notifications.

Notification of meetings

A notification of meeting is an official invitation to members of a group, society, institution or organization, to attend a meeting.


Let us watch a video clip on a conversation

among members of the school drama club.

From the video clip we have just watched, a notification of a meeting must have the following:

1. The senders address at the top right hand.

2. The date written one line below the senders address.

3. The receivers address.

4. The salutation.

5. The subject.

6. Body or the content of the notification.

7. The complementary close.

8. Sender's signature.

9. Name in full.

10. Position held in the club, society or organization.

Let us now look at a sample notification of a meeting.

Please read through the sample memo provided below.

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