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Fundamental Rules of Usage

RULES ON PUNCTUATION
Mens lives may depend upon
a comma....
- Johnson, J.
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Fundamental Rules of Usage


The writer who neglects
punctuation, or
mispunctuates, is liable to
be misunderstood.
- Edgar Allan Poe
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Main Reference

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REFERENCES
The Elements of Style by Bryan A.

Garner (1991)
The Elements of Style Strunk, W.,Jr.
and White, E.B.
Tips for Effective Punctuation in
Legal Writing by The Writing Center
(2005, Georgetown University Law
Center)
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PUNCTUATIONS
- Visual aids to help the reader better

understand a written material.


- -guide the reader to the writers
intent and meaning.
- Objective:
- To use punctuation correctly &

sparingly.

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PERIOD (.)
- Most common punctuation mark
- One of the three terminal marks,

together with the question mark


(?) and exclamation marks(!)

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PERIOD
1. Used after a statement, command or
request
2. Used after an indirect question
ex. The judge asked if I have other
witnesses.

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PERIOD
3. Used after initials and most
abbreviations.
Except: in the abbreviation of wellknown organizations
SCRA
UN
YMCA SC
*If an abbreviation with a period comes
at the end of the sentence, only one
period is used.
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PERIOD
4. Used to end a request or command
courteously phrased as a question when
no reply is expected
Ex. Would you be so kind as to
convey my greeting to your sister.

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COMMA (,)
- Most troublesome punctuation mark
- Tendency to be over-used or under-

used
- two uses:
- single comma (used to separate)
- Double commas (set-off clauses)

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Put a comma before the second


clause in compound sentences
Comma separates independent clauses

joined by coordinating conjunctions:


and, but, or, nor, and for
Illustration : The United States is a
common-law country, and its judges
are common-law judges.

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Exception where the compact main clauses

have the same subject, avoid the comma if


the subject is not expressed in the second
clause
Illustration 1 He did it and never regretted
it.
Illustration 2 The good brief should
address all the issue and should analyze
them intelligently.
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Comma with independent clauses


When independent clauses are joined by a
coordinating conjunction (e.g., and, or, for,
nor, yet, so, and but), the comma is placed
before the conjunction to form compound
sentences.
-Rule is used in longer compound sentences
but not in short compound sentences.

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Comma with independent clauses


The plaintiff wanted to implead Mrs. Kho
as defendant, and he wanted the case
heard before the long break.
The defendant shouted and he banged the
table.

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Set off dependent introductory


phrases with a comma
Generally, set off phrases that come

before the main clause. Unless the


introductory phrase is essential to
the meaning of the sentence,
punctuate it with a comma.

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Comma after introductory


element or phrase
Examples:
Word:
However, Fortunately, First,
Soon, Obviously, Yes, No, Nevertheless,
Well, Indeed,
Phrase: Being blood, In fact, Very soon,
Dependent Clause: At the time of the
incident, Speaking to the defendant, On
the advice of my lawyer,
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Comma after introductory


element or phrase
Examples:
To prevail in this matter, the plaintiff
must satisfy four elements.
First, the plaintiff must demonstrate that
the defendants statement was false.

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Set off dependent introductory


phrases with a comma
Exception : When the sentence or the
introductory phrase is short, or when
your ear so counsels, omit the comma.
Illustration 1: By October the debt had
climbed to more than P100,000.
Illustration 2: In 1989 the Litigation
Section was the A.B.C.s largest.
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Set off dependent introductory


phrases with a comma
Rule of thumb: If the introductory
phrase is very short, e.g., not more than
three words, the writer is given the
discretion whether to use the comma or
not. Either is acceptable; one may or
may not place a comma depending on
how one wants his sentence to sound.
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Compare:
Very soon the defendant will rest his
case.
Very soon, the defendant will rest his
case.

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COMMA WITH COORDINATE


ADJECTIVES
Paired adjectives may independently modify

a noun; to state the relationship negatively,


the first adjective in the pair neither
depends on nor modifies the second
adjective.
E.g. 1: an ambitious, entrepreneurial woman
E.g. 2: a reserved, cautious person
E.g. 3: a simplistic, fallacious conclusion
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Put a Comma Between Two Adjectives


that Modify a Noun
The defendant chose to wear his
most colorful, traditional costume
in court.

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When adjectives qualify the noun in

different ways, or when one adjective


qualifies another, do not use a comma
E.g. 1: a Scottish legal theorist
E.g. 2: a distinguished foreign
journalist
E.g. 3: a small white rabbit

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Tip: If in doubt, silently put

and between the adjectives. If it


makes good sense (a reserved
and cautious person), place
comma; if awkward (a small and
white rabbit), dont use comma

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COMMA AFTER TRANSITIONAL WORDS


Such as
moreover, therefore, thus, furthermore
When appearing in the beginning or in
mid sentence, COMMAS must be used.
Example:
Therefore, we have decided to withdraw.
My advice, thus, is to intervene.

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COMMA BEFORE INTERROGATORY TAGS


Example:

The judge is the Rotary president of


the district, isnt he?
*Rule is applicable when the subject of
both the statement and the question is
the same person or thing.

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COMMA BEFORE INTERROGATORY TAGS


Compare with:
I am planning to attend the IBP
National Convention this year.
Arent you?
*Rule is not applicable when the subjects
of the statement and the question are
different.

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COMMA TO AVOID AMBIGUITY


Use comma to separate words or figures to
avoid being misunderstood.
In 1991, 6,000 people died in the Ormoc
flood.

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COMMA TO COORDINATE DATES


August 11, 2014 was the start of the
new academic year at Saint Louis
University, Baguio City.

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COMMA TO SET OFF ABBREVIATIONS


The abbreviation etc., even if only a single
term comes before it, is always preceded
by a comma.
The same rule applies to jr.

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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
PARENTHETIC EXPRESSIONS
-Words or expressions that give additional
meaning but are only incidental to the
main thought of the sentence. If they
appear in the middle of the sentence,
double commas are used.
Ex. Judges, just like any human, may be
tempted to overlook facts out of pity.
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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
CONTRASTING EXPRESSIONS
-Parenthetic expressions introduced by
not, but not, but, although not, though
not usually
appearing in the middle of the sentence
Ex. The plaintiff, but not his wife, is
predisposed to settle.

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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
LEGAL CITATIONS
-Legal citations appearing in the middle
of the sentence
Ex. In Lu v. Manipon, 381 SCRA 788,
registration is not equivalent to title.

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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
APPOSITIVES
Words placed beside another to add to or
explain the first. Sometimes preceded
by such as, or, especially, particularly,
most notably, etc.
Ex.1 Jose, Marias older brother, is here.
Ex.2 The bus, old and dilapidated, still
transports passengers.
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COMMAS NOT TO SET-OFF


SINGLE WORD APPOSITIVES

Single word placed beside


another to add to or explain the
first.
Ex. My sister Jhoanna is not here.

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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
NONRESTRICTIVE ELEMENTS
phrases that modifies part of the
sentence but which phrase is not
essential to the over-all meaning of
the sentence.
-usually starts with which, who,
although, though
Ex. The class, which meets at the 4th
floor , has invited Judge Cabato.
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COMMAS NOT TO SET-OFF


RESTRICTIVE ELEMENTS
Essential or restrictive phrases do not
need commas
-usually starts with that, when,
because, before, while, if
Ex. The class that meets at the 4th
floor has invited Judge Cabato.
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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
QUOTATIONS
1. Before a quote when a phrase
introduces the quote, but do not use
a comma if the quote is integrated
into a large sentence.
He replied, I think the car was blue.
He replied that the car was blue with
white racing stripes.
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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
QUOTATIONS
2. Commas and periods always go

inside of the closing quotation


mark.
3. All other marks go inside the
closing mark only if the mark is
part of the quote.
He asked, What time is lunch?
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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
QUOTATIONS
4. All other marks go outside the

closing mark if the mark is part of


the larger sentence
Ex.
Did he really call his classmate an
obnoxious sycophant?
She said next Sunday; however, I
think she meant tomorrow.
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COMMAS TO SET-OFF
QUOTATIONS
Ex.
The laws, said Cicero, place the
safety of all before the safety of
individuals.

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COMMAS NOT TO SET-OFF


QUOTATIONS
When the quotation is only one word
Ex. The witness screamed stop!
Not with a partial quotation that is
part of the sentence
Ex. The mediator said that he is
giving the parties 30-day
extension.
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Always Use the Serial Comma


Separate items, including the last from

the next to the last, in a list of more


than two.
Makes phrasing parallel
E.g. The defendants, the third-party
defendants, and the
counterdefendants.
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Serial Comma
Omitting final comma may cause

ambiguities
Illustration : The judge ordered for separate
comments on the motions for
reconsideration, dismissal, accounting and
litigate as pauper and court pass.
Query : How many comments does the
judge require?
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Serial Comma
Use comma between the last items in a

series. Though considered optional, the use


of the comma in legal writing is
recommended to avoid any possible
confusion.
My clients estate is to be divided equally
among his nephew, his son, his daughter,
and his son-in-law.
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Serial Comma

TIP : Use the serial comma always to avoid

ambiguity
Exceptions
1. name of law firms and business firms
follow firms own practice
e.g. A, B & C Law Firm
A, B & Associates
Brown, Shipley and Company
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Serial Comma
2. Omit the comma before the

ampersand when listing the names of


joint authors
e.g. 6A C. Wright, A. Miller & M.
Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure
1528, at 294 (2d ed. 1990).

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Comma before a conjunction that


introduces a new subject and verb

Ex. The court declined the appeal,


but the Governor is considering
clemency.

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Comma before a conjunction that


introduces a new subject and verb

Tip: Avoid using a comma between


a subject and its verb. Do not use a
comma between two subjects that
share a verb or between two verbs
that share a subject.

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CORRECT USAGE
The officer pushed the door, which
was in a state of disrepair, and it
opened.
The plaintiff filed his reply brief,
which was longer than court rules
permitted.

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CORRECT USAGE
The complainant, a local
homeowner, has contacted the
police nine times.
The witness claimed that he, not the
defendant, was driving the car.
The judge, however, focused on the
policy implications of the decision.
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CORRECT USAGE
The leaders of the union and the
owners of the team met to begin
negotiations.
The lawyer objected to the statement
and moved to strike it from the
record.

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CORRECT USAGE
Red, white, and blue
Honest, energetic, but headstrong
He opened the letter, read it, and
made a note of its contents.

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INCORRECT USAGE
The leaders of the union, and the
owners of the team met to begin
negotiations.
The lawyer objected to the
statement, and moved to strike it
from the record.

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Avoid Using the Comma to


Combine Two Sentences into One
Comma splice using a comma as a period

without a coordinating conjunction (e.g.


and, together but) to hold independent
clauses.
E.g. The rule fastens liability on the
employer where his employee is negligent,
otherwise there is no liability.

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Avoid Using the Comma to


Combine Two Sentences into One
How to correct
1st remedy : The rule fastens liability on the

employer where his employee is negligent;


otherwise there is no liability.
2nd remedy : The rule fastens liability on the
employer where his employee is negligent.
Otherwise there is no liability.
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Avoid Using the Comma to


Combine Two Sentences into One
Original : The commission

prescribes two levels of


qualifications, one is for principals
and the other is for registered
representatives.

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Avoid Using the Comma to


Combine Two Sentences into One
The commission prescribes two levels

of qualifications; one is for principals


and the other is for registered
representatives.
The commission prescribes two levels
of qualifications: one is for principals
and the other is for registered
representatives.
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Avoid Using the Comma to


Combine Two Sentences into One
The commission prescribes two levels

of qualifications: one is for principals;


and the other is for registered
representatives.
The commission prescribes two levels
of qualifications: one is for principals
and one for registered representatives.
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APOSTROPHE ()
Used to indicate letters missing

from words and to create


possessive forms of nouns.

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USE OF POSSESSIVES
1. Add s to SINGULAR nouns, even if the base
word ends in sibilants (with hissing endings)
s, ss, z, or zh. The same rule is applied in
proper nouns.
Plaintiff
Charles
Jones
Witness
Burns
Congress
Waitress
witch
defendant
Tomas
woman
family
Reyes
earth
Perez
testatrix
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USE OF POSSESSIVES
Exceptions:
For classical or biblical or ancient proper names
ending is s, add and apostrophe () only.
Ex. Jesus
Achilles Isis
Amos
Narcissus Aristophanes
Certain virtues take on an apostrophe only to
form the possessive
Ex. Righteousness conscience
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USE OF POSSESSIVES
If the possessive singular noun is followed by a
word beginning with an s sound, creating
three s sounds together, the s after the
apostrophe is dropped for ease in
pronunciation.
Ex. Business sales
Witness signature

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USE OF POSSESSIVES
2. Add to PLURAL nouns that end is s or z.
Otherwise, add s.
Defendants
Bosses
Framers

witnesses
sisters
workers

Children

brethren

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Reyeses
octopuses
thirty days

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USE OF POSSESSIVES
3. For singular names written in plural form,
add the apostrophe only.
Philippine Airlines
Manila Times
Court of Appeals
Court of Industrial Relations

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USE OF POSSESSIVES
4. The apostrophe is NOT used for pronoun

possessives such as
its
his
theirs
ours
whose

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hers
yours

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USE OF POSSESSIVES
5. If joint ownership is meant, the possessive

is formed by putting an apostrophe after the


name of the last owner.
when both own the lots together
John and Mylas lots
6. If individual ownership is meant, the
apostrophe is used after each owner.
when each owns separate lots
Johns and Mylas lots
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USE OF POSSESSIVES
7. For compound expressions, the possessive is

formed by putting the apostrophe after the last


word.
The bride-to-bes necklace

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to form the plural of a letter, figure or


symbol

7s; ts; is; Cs; Ms

(multiple numbers , single digit


numbers in figures, dates)
1980s; Segregate bills by 50s.
Boeing 767s
We must walk in twos.

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to abbreviate words in citation sentences

Natl, Dept, Assn


*Uncapitalized abbreviations

are pluralized with s. (cds)


*Capitalized abbreviations are
pluralized with s. (PhDs)
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IMPROPER USAGE

Avoid informal contractions in


formal legal writing
Ex. Shouldnt, arent, isnt, cant
doesnt, wouldnt

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IMPROPER USAGE

Do not use to create a plural


form of a name that ends with
an s. Instead add es to the
word.
Ex. Two Robertses on the Court
Four Joneses at the reunion
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Semicolon
Has the force of a strong comma or
weak period, separating parts of the
sentences, or joining sentences without
need of a conjunction.

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Semicolon
strong comma separates portions of a
sentence of equal rank if the other parts
are divided by commas
Ex. We have branches in Lipa City,
Batangas; Los Banos, Laguna; and
Dasmarinas, Cavite.

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Semicolon
weak period joins two independent
clauses without a conjunction
Ex. Visitors visit; guests are invited.
(loose)
Visitors visit. Guests are invited.
(better)

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Semicolon
Use a semicolon to separate sentence

parts calling for a stronger break than a


comma
First, semicolon may join statements
too closely related to be split into two
sentences by a period but not related
closely enough for a comma to suffice
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Semicolon
E.g. 1: The war had been not merely

profoundly unsettling experience in


itself; it had also marked for America
the beginning of unaccustomed and
vexing entanglements in international
affairs.

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Semicolon
E.g. 2: The statutes . . . must be viewed

against the background of the earlier


rules that husband and wife are one,
and that one the husband; and that
husband took the wifes chattels he was
liable for her debts.

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Semicolon
Second, semicolon may separate

enumerated items that themselves


contain commas, the purpose being to
avoid ambiguity that would otherwise
result from using commas in two
different ways.

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Semicolon
E.g. 1:The company has offices in Ermita,

Manila; Ayala, Makati; and La Trinidad,


Benguet.
E.g. 2: Permit me to state the things I value:
love, happiness and contentment; family,
friends and loved ones; fine food, simple
luxuries and good clothes; and humility,
discipline and character.
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Semicolon
Third, it separates lengthy statements

following a colon.
E.g. The court gave three reasons for
rejecting the assignment of errors of the
appellant: (1) the appeal was filed out of
time; (2) there was no payment of the
appellate fees; and (3) the court a quo did
not commit any errors of fact and law.
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Semicolon
Note : Always put semicolons outside

quotation marks or parentheses


E.g. I dislike . . . [Montaigne] said,
unpunishable thought; and he
admonished, Let us not be ashamed to say
what we are not ashamed to think.

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Semicolon
Examples:

The Court of Appeals granted appellants


motion for extension of time to file his brief;
as a result, he had more time to research on
precedents.
The elements of defamation include a
defamatory statement concerning another;
publication to a third party; and fault
amounting to at least negligence.
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Semicolon
Effect: ;s tell the reader that more

information, following the semicolon,


will clarify your meaning. They add
emphasis to the second clause as an
important explanation of the first.
Advantages: highlight connections

between ideas that will help the reader


understand your meaning
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Semicolon
Disadvantages:
Critics complain that writers use
semicolons to gloss over imprecise
thought. Like any sentence structure,
semicolons can be over-used.

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Colon
-a punctuation mark of anticipation
-it means something will follow
-it is used to introduce long quotations

or any formal matter


-it is also used to introduce a series

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Colon
It should not be used to separate the

verb from the object


Ex. Our witnesses are: Eric, Ronald,

and Alfredo.
It should not be used to separate the
preposition from its object
Ex. We are going to look for the
documents in: the court, the notary
publics office, and the Archives.
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Set Off Incidental Comments with


Paired Marks of Punctuation
Use commas, parentheses, or dashes or em

dashes (long dashes)


E.g. When interpolating incidental thoughts
a mannerism to keep in check you have a
choice.
Alternative 1: When interpolating incidental
thoughts (a mannerism to keep in check)
you have a choice.
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Set Off Incidental Comments with


Paired Marks of Punctuation
Alternative 2: When interpolating

incidental thoughts, a mannerism to keep in


check, you have a choice.
Observation : the dashes provide the
greatest break and the strongest emphasis.
E.g. We are proud rightly that our system
affords these rights; and we regard them
wrongly as naturally part of that system,
ancient and honored axioms.
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Set Off Incidental Comments with


Paired Marks of Punctuation
Use comma to diminish emphasis
Use parentheses to further diminish

emphasis
To give the least emphasis, place each of
the adverbs in its customary syntactic
position closer to the verb
E.g. We are rightly proud that our system
affords these rights; and we wrongly regard
them as naturally part of that system,
ancient and honored axioms.
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Hyphenating Phrasal Adjectives


E.g. Common law mirror image rule (what is

the true noun?)


Better : common-law mirror-image rule
E.g. Civil-support payments, civil-rights
case, common-law privilege, good-faith
exception, long-latency occupationaldisease cases, take-nothing judgment, thirddegree assault
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Hyphenating Phrasal Adjectives


Improve : The benefit of insurance

and waiver of subrogation clauses


in the affreightment contracts are
invalid because they conflict with
the plaintiffs marine cargo
insurance policy.
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Otherwise, be stingy with hyphens


Today, American English has become

unhospitable to hyphens EXCEPT to phrasal


adjectives
Preference to prefixes and their bases be
written as solids; i.e., unhyphenated single
words
E.g. a--, an--, ante--, anti arch--, auto--, bi,- bio--, co--, counter--, de--, di--, dis--,
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Otherwise, be stingy with hyphens


fore--, hyper--, il--, im--, in--, infra--, inter--

, intra--, macro--, mal--, meta--, micro--,


mic--, mini--, mis--, mono--, multi--, neo--,
non out--, over--, pan--, poly--, post--, pre-, pro--, proto--, pseudo--, re--, semi--, sub-, super--, supra--. Sur--, trans--, tri--, ultra--,
under--, un--, uni--, under--

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Use hyphen to join a prefix


1. whenever the omission of a

hyphen will baffle the reader or


cause a genuine misreading if the
word were spelled as a solid
e.g. Hyper-illegible, pre-judicial,
re-sign

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Use hyphen to join a prefix


2. whenever omitting a hyphen

produces a visual monstrosity


e.g. Anti-injunction, multiinstitutional

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Use hyphen to join a prefix


3. whenever the base is a proper

noun
e.g. Infra-African,
pro-Philadelphia,
anti-Obama
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Slash out virgules / solidus / slash


-a short oblique stroke between two

words indicating that whichever is


appropriate may be chosen to
complete the sense of the text in
which they occur.
ex. The defendant and/or his/her
attorney must appear in court.
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Slash out virgules / solidus / slash


These are abominations (disliked or

abhorred).
Look for the correct word.
Prefer the familiar word to the farfetched.

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Slash out virgules / solidus / slash


Prefer the concrete word to the

abstract.
Prefer the single word to the
circumlocution.

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THANK YOU.

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