When you’ve drafted an article, leave it for a couple of hours, or overnight before you continue or decide to publish it.
When you open up that draft article again, you will have “slept on it”; the images in your mind will have developed, like photographs, the words you wrote about them will have dried on the paper, the file you created will have been safely saved.
Settle yourself down comfortably, where you won’t be disturbed, and breathe deeply. Then, slowly, begin to read. Out loud. Listen to yourself, hear the rhythm and beat of your sentences, notice when you pause to take another breath.
This is when you might start to notice your punctuation.
Where you take a new breath might just be where a comma could go, or if you already have a comma in that sentence, try out a semi-colon. Semi-colons are good for bringing a thought or action to an end, but still linking it to the next sentence.
Long sentences can bore your reader. The longer they go on, the longer the reader forgets what the subject was. They may lose interest and stop reading entirely. So keep sentences fairly short, and restrict paragraphs to 2 or 3 sentences if you can.
A colon can help you out here, if you are bored with the safe bet full stop. The colon saves you repeating “and” several times when you have to list a number of things: it can introduce a list, or a new idea.
As you continue to read aloud, notice whether the tone of your voice rises at a certain point – check: was that a question that needs a question mark? Or did your voice get slightly louder or faster – an exclamation mark would fit nicely there! You have uttered an exclamation!
The secret? Breathe. That’s it. Just slow down and listen to yourself!
Some people are great, natural-born writers; it comes easily to them and they love doing it. Not everyone quite “gets” the rules of writing though.