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Commas have many functions, but they are generally used to separate elements and to set off modifiers. 1. Use the comma to separate independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet). Ex. The brisk winds raised moderate waves, but the falling barometer indicated stormy weather was coming. 2. Use a comma between words, phrases, and clauses in a series. Ex. We chose red, gold, and white for our color scheme. 3. Use a comma after an introductory phrase, or conjunctive adverb when it starts a sentence. Ex. At the end of the first full day of work, I was ready for a good dinner. However, I was broke. 4. Use commas to set off embedded elements that add description/information but are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Ex. Mary Evans, who is the company comptroller, was invited to a meeting. Semicolon. Use a semicolon between independent clauses not joined by and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet, or to separate elements in a series with internal punctuation. Ex. We are not allowed to think for ourselves; that privilege is reserved for politicians and administrators. Ex. I traveled to the following cities: Missoula, Montana; Paducah, Kentucky; and Reno, Nevada. Colon. Use the colon before quotations, statements, and series that are introduced with a clause. Ex. The geologist began his speech with a disturbing statement: "This country is short of rare metals." Ex. Bring the following items: food for a week, warm clothes, and bedding. Quotation Marks. Use quotation marks to enclose the exact words of a speaker or writer or for titles of stories, short poems, songs, or words used in a special sense. Use single quotation marks around titles or quoted material embedded in quotation marks. (Note: periods and commas always go inside all single or double quotation marks.) Ex. "I'm tired," he said, “so I won’t stay “awake” to finish ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.’” Periods separate sentences or mark an abbreviation (but not an acronym or initialism) Ex. The humidity made the PhDs uncomfortable. FBI agent Ms. Jones turned on the AC at NASA. Question Marks conclude direct questions. Don’t use double question marks. Ex. What time is it? Apostrophes mark contractions or possession. Ex. Don’t forget to wash your hands if you want to avoid the flu’s wrath. Exclamation Points mark an outcry or an emphatic or ironic comment. Don’t use double exclamation points. Ex. Look out! Ex. When well I ever learn! Ex. He wondered why it wouldn’t work, but he forgot to plug it in!

Dashes introduce summaries or show interruption, parenthetical comment, or special emphasis. Use two hyphens with no spaces on either side to make a dash. Ex. Clothing, blankets, food, medicine--anything will help. important--so listen carefully. Ex. The key to the mystery could only be in one place--the attic. Hyphens form compound words, divide words, and separate characters. Ex. I re-created the wheel to be a noncomformist as easily as 1-2-3. Ex. This is important--I mean really

Ellipses indicate where words have been omitted. (Use three periods, each separated by a space.) Ex. One of her minor points was that "rhetoric was under attack . . . on all sides."
Prepared by David Blakesley, October 15, 2009