This study was carried out to investigate students’ use of punctuation marks in essay writing in selected senior secondary school students in Ikere local government. The research examined incorrect punctuations in selected essays of students in secondary schools in Ikere Local Government by analyzing and highlighting how such errors affect the writing competence of students. The study found that the most frequent errors were made in full stop, capitalization, comma, period, quotation, hyphen, apostrophe, and the question marks from the highest to the lowest occurrence. Based on the data presented, omission or wrong use of full stop, comma, question mark, causes ambiguity. Also, there were wrong insertions of comma between subjects and objects, verbs and complement, between adjectives and nouns, verbs and adverbs; omission of commas that are used to separate items in a list of words, phrases or clauses; Use of small letters for a personal “I” and capital for some common noun alter the meaning. Wrong combination of initials in abbreviation or omission of a hyphen and unnecessary abbreviation which may carry different connotations. This affects the overall quality of writing. Even when the students have good ideas to pass across, its inaccessible due to the wrong use of punctuations, distort the meaning as a result, he/she get poor grades which causes poor academic performance. This affects both students’ school achievement and overall language proficiency. The study therefore recommended that punctuation marks should be taught from the beginning stages. Students should be adequately exposed to the rules of punctuation of the target language at an early stage of learning. Students should be allowed to “try out” punctuation in their notebooks and be exposed to the basic systems of punctuation by including exercises in the textbooks along with continual practice in the end of each period by asking students to punctuate a short text



1.1            Background to the study

English language is the bane and foundation of all learning in schools. The language serves as a foundation for excellent performance not only for effective usage in oral and for written communication but as a means of learning other subjects in schools. Thus its functional role is simply multi-faceted that no subject area or even business escapes its application. In learning of English language, a learner is exposed to the four language skills in order to be able to use the language efficiently and effectively. The four skills of language (also known as the four skills of language learning) are a set of four capabilities that allow an individual to comprehend and produce spoken language for proper and effective interpersonal communication. These skills are ListeningSpeakingReading, and Writing. In the context of first-language acquisition, the four skills are most often acquired in the order of listening first, then speaking, then possibly reading and writing. While listening and reading are receptive skills because learners do not need to produce language to do these, they receive and understand it, speaking and writing are productive or active skills because learners doing these would need to produce languages. In the classroom, the relationship between receptive and productive skills is a complex one, with one set of skills naturally supporting another. For example, building reading skills can contribute to the development of writing.

With English language as the medium of instruction at every level of education in Nigeria above the lower primary, the importance of writing to the overall academic achievement of the Nigerian student cannot be overemphasized. Students need to express themselves cogently in writing in order to succeed in other school subjects. Students tend to fail not just English but their other school subjects because of their in ability to express their ideas coherently. Furthermore, teachers are apt to use students’ writing to gauge students’ progress in the language learning process, to identify areas that need further work and also to predict the strengths of the students. Although one can argue the validity of using writing as a general gauge of L2 development, the importance of the writing skill to the English as Second Language learner especially in a classroom learning situation cannot be overstressed.

Writing is one of those skills that can help students in learning and developing their English by expressing their knowledge and experiences. It can be expressed in the form of essay, paragraph, letter, and short story. Obi-Okoye (2006) described writing as meaning made permanent unlike the spoken language and communication. The written account of events, opinions, facts and observations provide permanent records, which can be referred to when one can no longer rely on one’s memory for an accurate version of the incident. Otagburuagu (2015) explained that the writing skill has an incalculable influence on humanity because it is a common instrument for the dissemination of knowledge. Writing contributes to enabling students to clarify and structure their own thinking and enables them to communicate with a wider audience than the one with which they are in daily contact.

A good writing has some aspects such as grammar and vocabulary. In writing, the Punctuation aspect is very important. Punctuation is very important because it conveys meaning completely (Oshima and Hogue, 2006) Smith (2011) states that the invention of punctuation marks over the years have been developed such as full stop, comma, colon, semi colon, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation marks, bracket to provide better or proper expression or meaning in writing. Hence, punctuation errors may distort or affect meaning in writing discourse which creates ambiguity that hinders effective communication in written discourse.

Oladapo (2014) defines Punctuation marks as the symbols that are used to make clarity and comprehension of written language. If commas, full stop, semi colon are not used correctly, this cannot only make a negative impression but also make a text difficult to understand. Poor pronunciation can completely change meaning of words and statements.

According to William (2013), Punctuation is the use of marks within a written text to enhance its meanings. Punctuation is one of the most important aspects of writing communication, given meaning to the written words. This means that an error in punctuation can convey a completely different meaning as against the intended one, thereby, making communication incomprehensible and ambiguous.Punctuation is the use of special marks that are added to separate phrases and sentences; it determines what a statement. Using Punctuation is very important because it can make the reader easily to understand the meaning in writing even without looking at the expression of the person who wrote the message. To write well, writer must punctuate well, but to punctuate well. Writer must also write well.

Misused of punctuation, for instance, a question mark (?) instead of a full stop (.) at the end of a sentence may convey a different meaning (Bram, 2015). For instance, “The poets tone reflects contemporary attitudes to Aboriginal Australians”, here, there is missing of apostrophes. Since the tone belongs to the poet, the apostrophe should be placed after the owner of the poet; “The poet’s tone reflects contemporary attitudes to Aboriginal Australians”. Therefore, it is important in any written discourse for one to know the function of punctuation marks, their meaning and when to use them in order to provide a good piece of comprehensible written discourse and convey the correct message.

All writers need to be able to understand the functions and usages of punctuation if they are to write effectively. Punctuation marks are introduced to help judge where to make pause in writing at times. It is difficult to understand the marking of text if use punctuation incorrectly and this leads to ambiguity. This shows that Punctuation is one of the major aspects that contribute to the meaning of any written discourse. When punctuation marks are used incorrectly, they change the meaning of the written discourse and also create ambiguity which leads to the ineffective communication. But the correct use of punctuation marks in written discourse enhances meaning and fluency which facilitates comprehension and effective communication. This research then tries to investigate the use of punctuations in students’ written composition and it implications on writing competence of students in secondary schools

1.2            Statement of the Problem

The act of composing, no doubt, creates problems for students, especially those writing in a second language. However, Ntia (2001) lamented that the quality of letters written especially by students in secondary schools and even in institutions of higher learning still remains appalling. Ikonta and Maduekwe (2006) observed that for most Nigerian students, the ability to write generally intelligible and acceptable expressions in the target language (English) is a task yet to be accomplished. As we all know the main purpose of learning English is tocommunicate in the language, so being able to write a text which is comprehensible is important for the sake of communication. Investigations have shown that one of the areas in which students perform poorly in English language is in the area of Punctuation marks.

Many students are not bothered using punctuation marks and those who use it do so wrongly. Despite the fact that Punctuation is thought from primary school level, many secondary School students do not know the function of each punctuation mark, when they are used and how to use them to convey meaning.This no doubt causes ambiguity, misunderstanding and incoherent in written composition. This is why some researchers blame students’ poor performance on their inabilities to write correctly, fluently and accurately. Punctuation errors occur in the use of omission or misused of punctuation marks. Lack of accuracy, omission and understanding of using punctuation marks properly were some of the problems faced by students. Failure to use punctuation will result in different meaning as such; they are not able to understand the different meaning correctly.

Many a times, words and phrases carry double meaning as a result of inappropriate use of punctuation marks. When punctuation marks are rightly used, it aids fluency of reading and easy comprehension but when errors are committed, there is communication breakdown. Therefore, the researcher is motivated to carry out a study on the punctuation errors and their pedagogical implications on writing competence of students in secondary schools in Ikere Local Government Area


1.3   Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to analyse students’ use of punctuation marks in essay writing in selected senior secondary school students in Ikere local government. Specifically, this study will find out:

                   i.            the most common punctuation errors in the written composition of secondary School students in Ikere Local Government

                 ii.            the causes of punctuation errors in students' written composition

              iii.             Pedagogical Implications of these punctuation errors on writing skills of students in secondary schools

              iv.            how the occurrence of these punctuation errors can be curbed among students

1.4   Research Questions

For the purpose of this study, the following research questions were considered:

                               i.            What are the most common punctuation errors in the written compositions of students in secondary schools?

                             ii.            What are the causes of punctuation errors in written composition of students?

                          iii.            What are the pedagogical implications of wrong use of punctuation errors on students' writing competence?

                          iv.            how can the occurrence of these punctuation errors be curbed among secondary school students?

1.5      Significance of the Study

This research work is designed for everyone who writes by putting words on paper. This study is important for students in secondary schools for it investigates the main reason that makes students commit punctuation errors when they write. By reviewing this study, students will know some errors they often make and learn from these errors and avoid the same mistakes again and become more careful in placing punctuations. This study enables students to know the use of a period, comma, or an exclamation to clarify readers’ thoughts and information.

By carrying out this study, students will know some errors they often made. They will learn from their errors and will avoid the same mistakes in the future. It was hoped that the students become more careful in placing punctuation. Sometimes, it was difficult to understand students’ difficulties if the students themselves did not know the errors they have made. Teacher may use the result of this study to develop appropriate teaching technique for the students. By knowing students’ weaknesses, teacher may focus more on developing the lacking aspect which will invariably improve their writing competence

 1.6     Scope of the Study

This research examines the punctuation errors in the writings of students and its pedagogical implications on writing competence of students in secondary schools. The study is delimited to selected written composition of SS 1 and 2 students in five public and private secondary schools in Ikere Local Government area






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