Teaching word-level punctuation


Why is it important to know how to teach punctuation at word level?

The 1999 National Curriculum for English at Key Stages 3 and 4 has the following requirement:

Writing: Punctuation

  • Pupils should be taught to use the full range of punctuation marks correctly.

The Key Stage 3 National Strategy: Framework for teaching English: Years 7, 8 and 9 has the following objectives:

Year 7: Word level


Pupils should revise, consolidate and secure the use of the apostrophe including: omissions; the possessive apostrophe; apostrophising plurals, e.g. ladies’ coats, and words ending in s; the exception of possessive pronouns;

Year 8: Word level


Pupils should be taught to review, consolidate and secure the spelling conventions covered in Year 7 which include: … apostrophes.


KS3 pupils’ strengths and weaknesses in word-level punctuation



  • More able writers use omissive apostrophes accurately.


  • The correct use of the possessive apostrophe still causes significant difficulty at KS3.
    • Even the strongest KS3 writers may make possessive apostrophe errors in 50% of occurrences.
  • Many pupils are still unsure when to use hyphens and capital letters.

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