PUNCTUATI ON HANDOUT p.

1
PUNCTUATI ON HANDOUT
Developed from:
Lunsford, Andrea, and Robert Connors. (1999). Easy writer: A pocket guide. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s.

Use COMMAS to:
• Set off introductory elements;
• Separate clauses in compound sentences;
• Set off nonrestrictive elements,
o Adjective and adverb clauses,
o Participial and prepositional
phrases, and
o Appositives (noun phrases);
• Separate items in a series,
• Set off parenthetical and transitional
expressions,
• Set off contrasting elements, interjections,
direct address, and a tag question,
• Set off parts of dates and addresses, and
• Set off quotations.

Do not use COMMAS:
• Around restrictive elements,
• Between subjects and verbs, verbs and
objects or complements, and propositions
and objects,
• In compound constructions, or
• Before the first or after the last item in a
series.

Use SEMI COLONS to:
• Link independent clauses,
• Link independent clauses joined by
conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases,
and
• Separate items in a series containing other
punctuation.

Do not use a SEMI COLON to separate an
independent clause from a dependent clause or
phrase.

Use PERI ODS to:
• Close sentences that
o Make statements,
o Give mild commands, and
o Make polite requests;
• Close indirect questions; and
• To write most abbreviations.
Use COLONS:
• To introduce
o an explanation,
o an example,
o an appositive,
o a series,
o a list, and
o a quotation;
• after salutations: in formal letters;
• with numbers indicating hours, minutes,
and seconds;
• with ratios;
• with biblical chapters and verses;
• with titles and subtitles; and
• in bibliographic entries.

Do not use COLONS:
• Between a verb and its object or
complement,
• Between a preposition and its object, or
• After such expressions as such as,
especially, and including.


Use QUESTI ON MARKS to close sentences that
ask direct questions.

Use EXCLAMATI ON POI NTS to show surprise or
strong emotion.

Use APOSTROPHES to:
• Signal possessive case,
• Signal contractions and omissions, or
• Form some plurals.

Use PARENTHESES to;
• Enclose material that is of minor or
secondary importance to the sentence, and
• Enclose textual citations and numbers or
letters in a list.



PUNCTUATI ON HANDOUT p.2

Use QUOTATI ON MARKS to:
• Signal direct quotation,
• Enclose titles or short works and
definitions, and
• With other punctuation know that:
o Periods and commas go inside
closing quotation marks, and
o Question marks, exclamation
points, and dashes go inside if the
are part of the quoted material,
outside if they are not.


Do not use QUOTATI ON MARKS for:
• Indirect quotations,
• Just to add emphasis to particular words, or
• Around slang or colloquial language.


Use BRACKETS to:
• Enclose parenthetical elements in material
that is itself within parentheses,
• Enclose explanatory words or comments
that you are inserting into a quotation, and
• Tell the reader that the person being quoted
made a mistake: “[sic]”.

Use DASHES to:
• Insert a comment or to highlight material in
a sentence (pair of dashes),
• Emphasize material at the end of a
sentence,
• Mark a sudden change in tone,
• Indicate hesitation in speech, and
• Introduce a summary or explanation.

Use ELLI PSES to indicate that you have omitted
something from a quoted passage.

Use HYPHENS:
• In compound nouns and verbs,
• In compound adjectives,
• In fractions and numbers,
• With prefixes and suffixes, and
• For word division.

Use I TALI CS for:
• Titles;
• Words, letters, and numbers used as terms;
• Non-English words;
• Aircraft, spacecraft, ships, and trains; and
• Emphasis.

Use CAPI TAL LETTERS on:
• The first word of a sentence,
• Proper nouns and proper adjectives,
• Titles before a proper name,
• Titles of works,
• Compass directions (when referring to a
specific location), and
• Family relationships (only if the word is
used as part of a name or as a substitute for
the name).