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Brief Overview of Punctuation: Semicolon, Colon,Parenthesis, Dash, Quotation Marks, and Italics

Punctuation marks are signals to your readers. In speaking, we can pause, stop, or change our tone of voice. In writing, we use the following marks of punctuation to emphasize and clarify what we mean. Punctuation marks discussed in other OWL documents include commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, and hyphens.

Semicolon ;
In addition to using a semicolon to join related independent clauses in compound sentences, you can use a semicolon to separate items in a series if the elements of the series already include commas. Members of the band include Harold Rostein, clarinetist; Tony Aluppo, tuba player; and Lee Jefferson, trumpeter.

Colon :
Use a colon . . . in the following situations: after a complete statement in order to introduce one or more directly related ideas, such as a series of directions, a list, or a quotation or other comment illustrating or explaining the statement. for example: The daily newspaper contains four sections: news, sports, entertainment, and classified ads. The strategies of corporatist industrial unionism have proven ineffective: compromises and concessions have left labor in a weakened position in the new "flexible" economy. Dear Ms. Winstead:

in a business letter greeting.

between the hour and minutes in time 5:30 p.m. notation. between chapter and verse in biblical Genesis 1:18 references.

Parentheses ()

Parentheses are occasionally and sparingly used for extra, nonessential material included in a sentence. For example, dates, sources, or ideas that are subordinate or tangential to the rest of the sentence are set apart in parentheses. Parentheses always appear in pairs. Before arriving at the station, the old train (someone said it was a relic of frontier days) caught fire.

Dash -Use a dash (represented on a typewriter, a computer with no dashes in the type font, or in a handwritten document by a pair of hyphens with no spaces) . . . in the following situations: for example:

to emphasize a point or to set off To some of you, my proposals may seem an explanatory comment; but don't radical--even revolutionary. overuse dashes, or they will lose their impact. In terms of public legitimation--that is, in terms of garnering support from state legislators, parents, donors, and university administrators-English departments are primarily places where advanced literacy is taught. for an appositive phrase already includes commas. that The boys--Jim, John, and Jeff--left the party early.

As you can see, dashes function in some ways like parentheses (used in pairs to set off a comment within a larger sentence) and in some ways like colons (used to introduce material illustrating or emphasizing the immediately preceding statement). But comments set off with a pair of dashes appear less subordinate to the main sentence than do comments in parentheses. And material introduced after a single dash may be more emphatic and may serve a greater variety of rhetorical purposes than material introduced with a colon.

Quotation Marks " "
Use quotation marks . . . in the following situations: for example:

to enclose direct quotations. Note He asked, "Will you be there?" "Yes," I that commas and periods go inside answered, "I'll look for you in the foyer." the closing quotation mark in conventional American usage; colons and semicolons go outside; and placement of question and

Whichever you choose. major works such as magazines. or in some of "civilization. italics or underlining should be used . The English word nuance comes from a Middle French word meaning "shades of color. Before computerized wordprocessing was widely available. History is stained with blood spilled in the name with reservations.exclamation marks depends on the situation (see our quotation marks document)." unusual way. but they are significant textual effects used conventionally in a variety of situations. long poems. . newspapers. Because academic papers are manuscripts and not final publications and because italics are not always easily recognized with some fonts. books. television programs. or they will lose their impact. writers would underline certain terms in handwritten or manually typed pages. academic The Simpsons offers hilarious parodies of journals. in the following situations: for example: to indicate titles of complete or Faulkner's last novel was The Reivers. . to indicate words used ironically. and the underlining would be replaced by italics in the published version. films. Since word processing today allows many options for font faces and textual effects. it is generally recommended that you choose either underlining or italics and use it consistently throughout a given document as needed. Underlining and Italics Underlining and italics are not really punctuation." words used as words themselves words or phrases that you wish to The very founding principles of our nation are at emphasize stake! Commonly Used and Misused Punctuation Marks Comma (. many instructors prefer underlining over italics for course papers.) . plays of three or more acts foreign words that are commonly used in English not Wearing blue jeans is de rigueur for most college students. American culture and family life. but don't overuse quotation marks in this sense.

do? 5. and Madrid. Usually. Use a comma after Examples: Well. Use commas to separate items in a Example: Our itinerary included Rome. who started this company.1. introductory do you elements. add only the apostrophe. and yet. Ph. 1992 New York. Example: girls' teams. after the salutation and closing of a letter. Use a comma before and. or. If the addition of an "s" produces an awkward sound. If the plural form of the word does not end in s. for goodness' sake. how Before you leave. really knows his stuff. Cordially. Examples: The article in The Herald. is about writing skills. Example: women's team. add an apostrophe after the s. so. Don't use unnecessary commas. turn off the lights. Examples: January 1. Use commas to set off nonessential clauses and phrases.D. for old times' sake. but it gets exciting toward the end. Example: My father. Albert Schweitzer. Apostrophe (') 1. add an apostrophe and an s. Use them sparingly and only to clarify issues. and after a name followed by a title). our local paper. 2. but. London. Use commas to set off an expression that interrupts a sentence. when they join independent clauses (unless the clauses are short). series. Commas in the wrong places can be confusing. this is when there is already a double "s" sound. obey the speed limit. 6. To form the possessive case of a singular noun. One's home. nor. Use a comma in certain conventional situations (to separate items in dates and addresses. 2. Examples: Bob's car. Example: The story gets off to a slow start. NY Dear Shirley. 4. add an apostrophe and an s. Examples: Moses'. I'm certain. for. . To form the possessive case of a plural noun. 3. Cabs in New York.

3. besides. and an alert mind. look it up in the dictionary. Use a semicolon between independent clauses joined by such words as for example. Hyphenate a compound adjective when it precedes the word it modifies. Amy. in other words. third place. it's = it is. 2. Use a hyphen to divide a word at Example: If you are not sure ate a word. nor. Use a colon to mean "note what follows. . take these items: paper.. Use a dash to mean namely. for. however. and Jeff. the end of a line. or that is before an explanation. and so. Use an apostrophe to show where letters have been omitted in a contraction. Semicolon (. first place. Example: The truth is--and you probably know it--we can't do without you. nevertheless. Hyphen (-) 1. Example: Winners in the competition were Bill. where to hyphen- 2." Example: When you go to training. it's difficult to know. I don't think I'd still be here. Use a colon before a long. Example: We remember Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: Four score and seven years ago. 3. formal statement or quotation. Use a dash to indicate an abrupt break in thought. Use a semicolon between items in a series if the items contain commas. pencil. Example: I think he's right. etc. Examples: fast-moving train. yet.) 1. Example: It was a close call--if he had been in a worse mood.. 2. 2. long-distance runner.. but. Use a semicolon between independent clauses not joined by and. Colon (:) 1. don't just pass it on. Example: Read what you've written. Examples: can't = cannot. Dash (--) 1. second place.

Quotation Marks (" ") 1. Vary placement of exclamation and question marks according to meaning. Put colons and semicolons outside quotes. 2. Put periods and commas inside quotes. HOW TO USE PUNCTUATION . 3.

intonation. we have a variety of devices for clarifying our meaning: stress. In text.Introduction The earliest known punctuation was credited to Aristophanes of Byzantium.T. as the Americans call it. pauses. for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (although increasingly it is acceptable and even preferable not to use full stops in such cases)] Note: A common mistake is to use a comma where a full stop should be used. a libarian at Alexandria. look for a verb which is an essential component of a sentence) [This is a sentence with the verb 'is'. rhythm. and poor punctuation enables the same words to have different or unclear meanings. as in the linking of statements or sentences. punctuation as we understand it today was the result of the rise of printing in the 14th and 15th centuries and was developed by Aldus Manutius [for brief biography click here] and his grandson (who had the same name).but it is a vitally important reason: to make oneself understood with clarity. we have only the words and the punctuation...[N. Start here . the period):   to mark the end of a sentence expressing a statement (if you are unsure whether the words constitute a sentence. However. hand or body movements. How to use the full stop There are only two uses of the full stop (or. There is only one reason to use punctuation correctly .] to signify an acronym . There are clear rules for the use of punctuation marks and they are not difficult to learn and to apply. In speech.A. around 200 BC [for brief biography click here]. How to use the question mark There are only two uses of the question mark:   at the end of a direct question [Do you understand this rule?] to show that something is uncertain (when it should be inside round brackets or parentheses) [He was born in 1886(?) and died in 1942.] Note: A question mark should not be used at the end of an indirect question in which the speaker's exact words are not repeated. How to use the exclamation mark There is only one use of the exclamation mark: .O.

'while'. Note 4: There is some controversy over use of something called the serial or Oxford comma which is the last comma in this example: The colours in the Union Jack flag are red. as opposed to Britain.] Note 1: One bracketing comma will suffice if the weak interruption comes at the beginning or the end of the sentence. phrases or even complete sentences are joined by the word 'and' or 'or'. after an exclamation of surprise. Note 3: When in doubt over where to use a comma.] Note 2: The main purpose of punctuation is to aid understanding. 'nor'. try reading the sentence out loud and. others. [I could tell you the truth. the longer the sentence or the more complex the sentence. I would suggest. [This web site. [Some English writers use punctuation correctly. white and blue.that is. [The colours in the Union Jack flag are red. four distinct uses of the comma:     A listing comma is used as a kind of substitute for the word 'and' or sometimes for the word 'or' in a list when three or more words. As a general rule.] A joining comma is only slightly different from a listing comma and is used to join two complete sentences into a single sentence. 'or'. My preference is to use a listing comma before 'and' or 'or' only when it is nesssary to make the meaning clear. There are.] The gapping comma is used to show that one or more words have been left out when the missing words would simply repeat the words already used in the same sentence. 'but'. . How to use the comma The comma is used very frequently and used incorrectly almost as frequently. contains much useful information and advice. and blue. an interruption which does not disturb the smooth flow of the sentence and could be removed and still leave the sentence complete and making good sense. although often wet. but I will not. [Although often wet. white. which is generally a short sentence or phrase expressing very strong feeling (especially one beginning with 'What' or 'How') [What a wonderful surprise!] Note: Exclamation marks should be used sparingly and usually not at all in formal writing. Generally the serial comma is not used in Britain where it is regarded as unnecessary. a subsidiary purpose is to aid flow. has lots of sunshine. shock or dismay. not. the greater the need for commas. Use joining commas and pairing commas where this aids understanding and/or flow. but it is commonly used in the United States where it is thought helpful.] The bracketing comma always comes as a pair and is used to mark off a weak interruption of a sentence . Britain has lots of sunshine. when it must be used by one of the connecting words 'and'. commas should be used where you pause for clarification or breath. in fact. generally speaking. 'so' and 'yet'.

'accordingly'. Gordon Brown. far better rest that I go to.] to join two complete sentences into a single written sentence where the second sentence begins with a conjunctive adverb such as 'however'.How to use the colon The colon has two uses:   to indicate that what follows it is an explanation or elaboration of what precedes it (the rule being that the more general statement is followed by a more specific one) [There is one challenge above all others: the alleviation of poverty. and it is never followed by a hyphen or a dash.] Note: In these uses. but this should not be the case since there are only two major uses of the apostrophe:   to indicate a contraction which is a form of word in which one or more letters are omitted [it's instead of it is or aren't instead of are not] to indicate possession [Roger's web site] Note 1: The first use of the apostrophe should usually be avoided in formal writing. 'nevertheless'. Scotland. it is a far. How to use the semicolon The semicolon has two similar major uses:   to join two complete sentences into a single written sentence when the two sentences are too closely related to be separately by a full stop and there is no connecting word which would require a comma such as 'and' or 'but' [It is a far. the semicolon is stronger than a comma but less final than a full stop. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. than I have ever known. Wales and Northern Ireland.] to introduce a list [There are four nations in the United Kindom: England. or 'instead' [I wanted to make my speech short. however. . far better thing that I do. There is a minor use of the semicolon:  to separate items in a list when one or more of those items contains a comma [The speakers included: Tony Blair. and Ruth Kelly. the Prime Minister. 'consequently'.] Note: A colon is never preceded by a white space. Secretary of State for Education & Skills.] How to use the apostrophe The apostrophe is the most misused punctuation mark in the English language by far. but it is always followed by a white space. there was so much to cover. than I have ever done.

The final misuse involves confusion between 'who's' which is an abbreviation of 'who is' [the man who's coming to visit] and 'whose' which shows possession [the man whose house is over there]. especially in signs and notices. How to use the hyphen There are two main uses of the hyphen:   in writing compound words that would be ambiguous. hard to read or excessively long [no-smoking sign and black-cab driver] to indicate that a long word has been broken off at the end of a line (however. this should be avoided if possible) A minor use of the hyphen is:  to avoid what is called letter collision {de-ice or shell-like] How to use the dash The dash has only one major use:  to use in pairs to separate a strong interruption from the rest of the sentence (a strong interruption.but it is easier said than done. but it is totally wrong to write pizza's or CD's or even in English English 1990's (this is the usage in American English). which is almost as common.Note 2: The second use of the apostrophe involves placing the apostrophe at the end of the word when the word is plural and ends in 's' [workers' rights].    The most frequent misuse is in writing plural forms.some even achieve it . is one which forcefully disrupts the flow of the sentence and. as opposed to a weak interruption. it usually contains a verb rather simply being a phrase) [All nations desire econmic growth .and he did. as such. The second misuse. very common misuses of the apostrophe.] There are several minor uses of the dash:    to add emphasis or drama [He said that he would go . is it's instead of its to indicate possession [It's wrong to hit its head]. [We earnestly desire peace for all nations of the world .and we will work hard for it.] Note: Only one dash is used if the strong interruption comes at the beginning or the end of the sentence.] to indicate a range of numbers [900-1000] to link two connected words [the Sydney-Melbourne train] How to use quotation marks . Note 3: There are three very.

when one has a quotation within a quotation. speech marks.] Note 4: One final use of quotation marks is when one is talking about a word or phrase when one normally uses single quotation marks.] Note: Round brackets are normally used instead of dashes or bracketed commas where the interruption is something of an aside from.] Note 2: International practice varies on whether quotation marks should be double or single (I use double) but.] Note 1: Strictly speaking. or inverted commas. [Daniel was assured that he would be 'safe' in the lion's den.There is only one use of quotation marks (or quotes. [He screamed out "Help me!" and so I went to his aid. the main sentence. one uses the other type of quotation marks (in my case.] Note 3: There is a version of quotation marks known informally as scare quotes and these are used when the writer wishes to signify that the quoted word or words are odd or inappropriate or the writer wishes to express irony or even sarcasm. confusingly. [Someone I know overuses the word 'actually'. as they are often called):  to enclose a direct quotation [Hamlet's most famous speech begins: "To be or not to be". single) [He told me: "Your use of the phrase 'in this day and age' is hackneyed". Americans call simply brackets): . or a supplement to. or parentheses.] How to use brackets There is one major use of brackets (or round brackets. the only punctuation marks that should go inside the quotation marks are those that are part of the quotation itself. as they are called in America)  to use in pairs to set off a strong or weak interruption. as with a pair of dashes or a pair of bracketed commas [I knew she loved me (I was not wrong) which is why I proposed. as they are often called. There is a minor use of brackets:  to enclose an acronym after the acronym has been spelt out [European Union (EU)] How to use square brackets There are two uses of square brackets (which.

] Note: Technically there should be three dots in an ellipsis.] to set off material which is extraneous to the main text. we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and allusive. . such as the examples of the usage of punctuation in this essay or comments in a draft document which are not intended to be in the final version How to use the ellipsis The ellipsis (. If it goes.and offer this short guide as a modest contribution to the correct use of punctuation... sometimes called the suspension or omission marks. the degree of intellectual improverishment we face is unimaginable". has three uses:    to show that some material has been omitted from a direct quotation [One of Churchill's most famous speeches declaimed: "We shall shall fight them on the beaches .. We shall never surrender". all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places. Shoots And Leaves" as follows: "We have a language that is full of ambiguities. but I would accept two at the beginning of a piece and four at the end.] to indicate suspense [The winner is .. Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking.).] to show that a sentence has been left unfinished because it has simply trailed off [Watch this space ..  to set off an interruption within a direct quotation [Churchill said of the Battle of Britain: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few [the Royal Air Force pilots]".. Conclusion Lynne Truss concludes her marvellous (and amusing) book "Eats. I agree ... poetic and modulated.

The following is a list of common English punctuation marks and their usage. Steps [edit] 1. or exclamation point (exclamation mark or shout mark). question mark. it will help to know proper usage of punctuation. ) is one of the most commonly used punctuation marks.How to Use English Punctuation Correctly Would you like to write a great paper for one of your classes? Maybe you need to submit a polished. . The period ( . End your sentences with a period (full stop). impeccable proposal to your boss? If so. o Use the period (full stop) to denote a full stop at the end of a statement.

The Easter basket contained: Easter eggs. Use the semicolon and colon properly. if the two clauses are very wordy or complex. Separate the two words of any number under one hundred with a hyphen. The purpose of this hyphen is to make the word easier to read. to accept the extra credit assignment. it is better to use a period instead.  The professor has given me three options: to retake the exam. Understand the differences between a hyphen and a dash.  Use hyphens when creating compound words from separate words. which would be harder to read. o The colon ( : ) has multiple uses. pretest. o The hyphen ( . Jenna. If you were to leave the hyphen out of a word like re-examine. 3. o The question mark ( ? ).  Use a semicolon to separate two related but independent clauses. and undo. Understand that some words do not require a hyphen to separate the prefix from the word. his friend. Be careful not to use a colon when denoting a regular series. and her best friend.  I went to the show with Jake. my close friend.The accessibility of the computer has increased tremendously over the past several years. or to fail the class. Jane. used at the end of a sentence.  Use a hyphen when writing numbers out as words.  INCORRECT .  The up-to-date newspaper reporters were quick to jump on the latest scandal. o The semicolon ( . ) has a few uses. Let a dictionary be your guide for when to use the hyphen after a prefix. the word following suggests the use of a colon. especially those that contain commas.  Cara is his ex-girlfriend. Use only after a noun.  What has humanity done about the growing concern of global warming? o The exclamation point (exclamation mark.  Use the colon to introduce a list.  . Usually. shout mark)( ! ) suggests excitement or emphasis in a sentence. The hyphen is still used in a number of other areas:  Use a hyphen when adding a prefix to some words. our failure to conserve resources has put the world at risk.  Use a semicolon to separate a complex series of items. it would be reexamine. such as restate.) was once a common punctuation mark on typewriters. when a long word might have been split between two lines.  People continue to worry about the future. and other candy.  I can't believe how difficult the exam was! 2. Note that. chocolate rabbits. suggests an interrogatory remark or inquiry.

if the sentence appears disjointed or does not make sense.There are fifty-two playing cards in a deck. since all compound adjectives are hyphenated (I have one-hundred tapes). use parentheses.g. the "and" is usually included. the value of the dollar in developing nations is "strongly influenced by its aesthetic value. but should still be relevant to the sentence. you should use 's. Use the double quotation mark and single quotation mark/apostrophe for different purposes. you guessed it—at the beginning of a sentence. o The dash ( -." o The single quotation mark or apostrophe ( ' ) has a variety of uses.  .)  Be careful with spelling out numbers above one hundred—if the number is used as an adjective. whether made by a person or taken from a piece of literature.or — ) should be used when making a brief interruption within a statement. Be aware of the difference in using an apostrophe with singular or plural nouns. It can also be used to add a parenthetical statement.  A singular noun with possession. except as a predicate adjective. be mindful of nouns that are always considered to be plural. o The double quotation ( " ) encloses a direct quotation. or a dramatic qualification. such as hers and its (it's is used only for the contractions of it is and it has). Otherwise.  Use the apostrophe together with the letter s to indicate possession. Otherwise.  An introductory clause is a brief phrase that comes—yes. a sudden change of thought. however. such as for further clarification. an additional comment.  "I can't wait to see him perform!" John exclaimed. a hyphen should only occur if a number <100 occurs within the larger number. where the "and" is usually omitted. Their is possessive without apostrophe or s. Also.  According to the article. the hamsters' bedding needed to be changed. where it becomes theirs.  In the pet store. Elsewhere in the English-speaking world. He lived to be one hundred twenty-one. then you may need to revise. A singular noun will use 's. e.  The hamster's water tube needs to be refilled. rather than its face value. Keep in mind that the rest of the sentence should still flow naturally. whereas the plural version of that singular noun will use s'. it is completely hyphenated. ("The amount is one hundred and eighty" is a common error in US English. 4.. such as children and people — here. There should be spaces before and after the dash in British English. Try to remove the statement within the dash from the sentence.  This is the end of our sentence—or so we thought. Be aware of pronouns that are already possessive and do not require apostrophes.

 After the show.  I am originally from Freehold.  . NJ. ). This is a very common mistake and should be avoided. but is not part of the sentence's subject or predicate.  Use the apostrophe to combine two words to make a contraction. John and I went out to dinner.  INCORRECT .A pluralized singular noun with possession. For example. computer hardware and other electronic paraphernalia. my cat's claws have slowly been carving a large hole. some writers may omit the last comma.apple → apples  INCORRECT .  CORRECT . resonating. 'I wasn't sure if you wanted to come!'"  Note that an apostrophe is not used with 's' to make a plural noun from a singular. o Use a comma if your subject has two or more adjectives describing it. bananas.  These children's test scores are the highest in the nation.  The fruit basket contained apples.  CORRECT . This is a set of three or more "list" items within a sentence. and oranges. o Use a comma when referring to a city and state. and they have becomes they've.The powerful. There are several instances where you might use a comma: o Use the comma when denoting an appositive. and it therefore should be separated from the main clause by a comma.  A plural noun with possession. is one of the largest cities in the United States. An introductory phrase briefly introduces the sentence.  Use the single quotation mark within a regular quotation to indicate a quotation within a quotation. cannot becomes can't.  Los Angeles. Indicate a break or pause within a sentence with the comma ( . you are becomes you're. CEO of Microsoft.  The computer store was filled with video games. To save space in newspapers. resonating sound caught our attention. is the developer of the operating system known as Windows. "Anna told me. except that it is incorrect to place a comma after the final adjective. This is somewhat similar to a series. o Use the comma when denoting a series.  On the back of my couch. CA. It is also necessary to use a comma to separate the city and state from the rest of the sentence.apple → apple's 5.  Bill Gates. This is another commonly used punctuation mark.  Ali said. sound caught our attention.The powerful. or a break within a sentence that supplements and adds information to the subject. o Use a comma to separate an introductory phrase (which is usually one or more prepositional phrases) from the rest of the sentence.

6. John asked. for. commas can replace the parentheses. John asked me if I wanted anything to eat. "Do you want anything to eat?"  A direct quotation.  Steve Case (AOL's former CEO) resigned from the Time-Warner board of directors in 2005. because this is something that we do normally while speaking. Also note that replacing the parentheses with a comma may not be entirely suitable here. or yet ).  While I was at his house. Here. (Don't forget the batteries!)"  Most grammarians believe that parentheses and commas are always interchangeable. as people are thirstier during hot and humid days.the camping trip. so. as. Note that this kind of comma is used rarely in writing.. to place an afterthought.)  A personal comment.Use the comma to separate two independent clauses. o Use parentheses ( ( ) ) to clarify.  Amber. and is better off with a period or a semicolon. A comma should come after the last word before a quotation that is being introduced. o Use a comma when making a direct address. brackets. Be sure to include the period after the closing parenthesis. but. separate the person's name and the rest of the statement with a comma.  An afterthought. but he forgot his sunscreen.  You will need a flashlight for the camping trip (don't forget the batteries!). place a comma before the conjunction. In the above example: ". or to add a personal comment. and braces. Understand the difference between parentheses. If your sentence contains two independent clauses that are separated by a conjunction (such as and. When calling one's attention by name. could you come here for a moment? o Use a comma to separate direct quotations. And that if the parenthetical thought is an "independent" one. A comma is usually not necessary if you are not quoting an entire statement.  An indirect quotation that does not require a comma.  Water bills usually rise during the summer. perhaps it should be a sentence in itself. (I disagree.  Ryan went to the beach yesterday. It is not necessary to use a comma in an indirect quote..  Used for clarification."  A partial direct quotation that does not require a comma. o . Note that the period (full stop) follows the last parentheses — not before the first. Having two independent clauses in a sentence simply means that you can split the sentence into two.  According to the client. nor.  While I was at his house. the lawyer was "lazy and incompetent.

10. knife. a local bystander at the scene of the incident. there are some cases where a set of parentheses might be more suitable. Though generally uncommon. ("A discussion on personal finance is found in pages 45–62.  "[The blast] was absolutely devastating. "like so. as in page numbers or years. 2. as in. be sure to follow any guidelines or style guides provided by your employer.  { 1.") The placement of punctuation marks before or after a closing quotation mark varies. but their rules always take precedence. Brackets are often used to encompass the word "sic" (Latin for thus). In making compound words.  "It was absolutely devastating!" – the actual quote by Susan Smith. "like so". spoon } and bring it to me. such as in indicating one's personal thought. Although dashes and parentheses have similar uses. American English leaves the punctuation mark inside the quotation if it is part of the quotation. suggesting that the previous word or phrase was written "as is". "He took the Paris–New York route. . b. 20 }  Choose your favorite utensil { fork.  The English professor's report read. regardless of whether the quotation has punctuation at the end." (Commas and periods (full stops) are always put inside the quotation marks for a sentence in American English.) British English tends to leave the punctuation mark outside the quotation. to denote a range. remember that parentheses indicate a stronger "side notion" than dashes. You can also use brackets to clarify or to revise a direct quote so that it appeals to your own writing. b and c). with the error intended to be displayed." En dashes are also used between numbers. There are exceptions to the hyphen-dash rule. independent choices. While this is sometimes true. braces can also be used in regular writing to indicate a set of equal. Other types of punctuation marks are put outside the quotation if they are not part of the quotation. use an en dash ( – ) rather than a hyphen. Tips [edit]      If you write in a professional capacity. when one of the words is itself composed of two words. and c) and others do not (a." said Susan Smith. some companies use serial commas (a. their rules can be at odds with what you read here or elsewhere.o o Use brackets ( [ ] ) to signify an editor's note in a regular piece of writing. Many grammar experts believe that parentheses and commas are often interchangeable when setting off information. In some cases. "Their [sic] are too many problems in are [sic] department. 5." Braces ( { } ) are most widely used in denoting a numeric set in mathematics. For example.

o Warnings [edit]  While using English punctuation appropriately may help your writing to flow much more smoothly. Most of your sentences should be declarative statements. and finally those that fall in the middle of words. Dashes are usually considered to be informal. starting with those that end sentences.     At times. don't overdo it. They are listed in functional order. Punctuation Below is a description of the most common punctuation marks and their proper usage. make sure that the meaning of the sentence can stand without its use. Your reader will appreciate writing that is clear and concise with briefer statements. so that it is easier on the reader's eyes. Never be afraid to have short sentences in your writing by splitting up long sentences that contain several points." If you find that a sentence seems to drag on. You should not use a period for anything other than ending a sentence. followed by those that fall in the middle of sentences. as opposed to a one-page paragraph with twenty words per sentence. Mother Teresa and the Pope. You might want to replace the use of a dash with a set of parentheses. as in. limit the frequency of dash use in your writing. Similarly.) . British English will switch back and forth between the inside and outside. It's best to err on the side of omission than to add several superfluous apostrophes and commas. For example. but that's another story. It is used to end a sentence. then consider splitting it into two or more sentences. "Do you like this question?" In formal writing. or even commas. try to avoid excessive use of question marks and exclamation points. interrogative quotations may keep the question mark inside the quotation. If a sentence becomes too long. Think about the classic example of a sentence in which the serial comma is needed: "My heroes are my parents. they should be reserved to emphasize a couple of important points. The Period A period looks like this: . generally creating a more "intelligent" appearance. (A period also makes up part of an ellipsis. If you decide against the serial comma in your work. depending on the context. find a way to add a comma or two.

Gabrielle ate chicken. look out!" yelled Xena. Commas have several uses: Commas serve to separate two ideas in a sentence.) Especially look for words like "and." "but. but she kept walking. Commas Examples: separate lists of three or more. but it also adds emphasis. The Question Mark A question mark looks like this: ? Like the period and exclamation point. soft hair. now things are getting a little more complicated. . if each idea could be its own sentence) you should either use a semicolon or a period." etc. Commas separate multiple adjectives that are describing the same thing.The Exclamation Point An exclamation point looks like this: ! Like the period. Example: "Xena. Example:: "Gabrielle. Example: Gabrielle was tired. The Comma Ahhh. fish. Xena jumped up. Example: Gabrielle ran her fingers through Xena's long. A comma looks like this: . and drew her sword. if they could stand alone (that is." "or. spun around. (The preceding sentence is a good example of this. When you're writing dialogue and a character is shouting. and berries for lunch. where are we going?" asked Gabrielle. the question mark is used to end a sentence. you might want to end the sentence with an exclamation point. but only when the sentence is a question. The two ideas are so closely related that they can't each stand alone. the exclamation point is used to end a sentence.

Note that if any of the items in the list use commas. Since she was hungry. Note the difference between the two sentences above. Commas set off non-essential clauses in the middles of sentences. the list separator becomes a semicolon: Xena jumped up. who is from Amphipolis. you should try Oreos. I broke the frying pan. that I'm all wet. you should be able to remove everything between the commas and still have a coherent sentence. "It's your fault. Xena hurried forward. is sitting next to you. No. Gabrielle ate some berries. Dammit. In this case. the fact that she's from Amphipolis is the main point of the sentence. Example: Seeing Gabrielle fall. the main point is that Xena is sitting next to you. I'm not hungry. spun around. If you love chocolate. Oops." In the second sentence. Xena abandoned Gabby again. Xena. BUT The woman sitting next to you is from Amphipolis. such as "who is from Amphipolis" in the above example. Commas set off subordinate clauses that qualify the main clauses. Commas come Examples: after exclamations or other one-word interjections. There are three general types of word/phrase that should go between these commas: Descriptive phrases that are not strictly necessary. If you have constructed the sentence properly. The fact that she's from Amphipolis is not important. and drew her sharp. it would be "Xena is sitting next to you. shiny sword. In the first. ALWAYS USE THESE COMMAS IN PAIRS! Examples: Xena. Names." . hence no comma is used.

"Gabrielle." etc. My sister." "so to speak. "Let's get some sleep. Let's get some sleep." said Xena. This is because two sentences are spoken: if you had moved the speaking verb to the end." said Xena. Gabrielle." and other speaking verbs when they are in the middle of the spoken quotation. Example B: My sister Sarah has a cat. unless of course it is a name." Cried Xena. Commas come after "he said." cried Xena. stop it." Note that in the third example. the next word should ALWAYS be uncapitalized. a period follows the speaking verb rather than a comma. stop it.Non-essential comments or qualifiers such as "however. Example A: Above the mountains rose like purple shadows. "Gabrielle. Gabrielle. stop it. ." "she said. The correct forms would be: "Gabrielle. stop it!" Cried Xena. Try putting a comma in different parts of the above sentence and see how different the meanings are. This is possibly the hardest one. stop it!" cried Xena." said Xena. A comma is also used to prevent confusion when there is more than one possible interpretation of a sentence. "but I feel like cuddling. Examples: "Xena. "Gabrielle. "what are you doing?" "I don't know why." "nevertheless." said Gabrielle. you would have "I'm tired. Also note that after a spoken quotation. has a cat. The following examples are ALL incorrect: "Gabrielle." BUT "I'm tired. Sarah." cried Xena.

Incorrect: Xena's skills include: running. The name Sarah indicates which sister I am speaking of at the moment. and sewing. jumping. The second sentence implies that I have only one sister. my sister has a cat. has a cat.) Example C: Sarah. try removing everything between the commas. Sarah. an example of nonessential qualifier. Be sure that what comes before the colon could stand as a complete sentence on its own. . jumping. The commas setting off her name indicate that the name is a nonessential qualifier. fighting. A colon can introduce a list. again. and sewing. (Remember. I am telling Sarah that my sister. my sister. Correct: Xena has many skills: running. fighting. Xena is a warrior: she spends a lot of her time fighting battles.The first sentence implies that I have more than one sister. has a cat. whose name is not specified. I could say "Sarah has a cat" and presumably you know that Sarah is my sister. A colon can introduce a restatement of the previous clause. The Colon A colon looks like this: : It appears at the end of a clause and can do one of three things. The second sentence is addressed to Sarah. The first sentence is.

The previous sentence is an example. Possession: "This is Xena's whip. and green apples. The Semicolon A semicolon looks like this: ." Possessives get really tricky when you apply them to multiple people. In this function. it indicates possession. but weaker than a period. apostrophes have two uses: replacing removed letters in contractions. A semicolon separates two closely related clauses. The clause before the semicolon and the clause after the semicolon should be complete sentences on their own. Removed letters: Consider the word "isn't. you should be able to replace the semicolon with a period and have two grammatically correct sentences. it is slightly stronger than a comma. A semicolon separates items in a list when the items themselves have internal punctuation. Also note that some people like to capitalize the first letter of the first word after the colon: They believe it is more stylistically appropriate. Semicolons have essentially two uses. Note that the distinction between restatement and elaboration can sometimes be subtle. "is not. Whether or not to capitalize is up to you. yellow. Gabrielle was in pain: she had just sprained her ankle. The Apostrophe An apostrophe looks like this: ' In general." We all know this is a contraction of two words." Similarly. Gabrielle likes oranges." the apostrophe in "we're" replaces the letter A in "we are. the apostrophe in "can't" replaces the letters NO in "can not. The previous sentence is an example.A colon can introduce an elaboration on the previous clause. "This whip belongs to Xena. and indicating possession." In this case the apostrophe does not replace a letter. For example: . and red. cherries. i. just be careful to be consistent." and so forth.e." The apostrophe in "isn't" replaces the letter O in "not.

and the one which gives most people a lot of trouble . This is Xena Gabby's whip. The trouble with English is not that it has too many rules . and and Translation: This whip belongs to Xena and Gabby." The letter i from "it is" has been replaced by the apostrophe. If the word is "it's. "The frying pan has a dent in its handle.This is Xena's Gabby's whip. "It's not my fault the frying pan is dented!" . and this is a whip belonging to Gabby.is the word "its" meaning "belonging to it." Unlike most possessives. But "its/it's" is a case wherein it's good to remember Case 1 from above. to clarify: Its = belonging to it. "What letter has been removed?" The answer clearly is "i. It is just one of the many cases where the English language is unnecessarily complex." It's = it is. The exception to the possessive rule . So. Translation: This is Xena." ask yourself. "its" does not contain an apostrophe.it's that there are too many exceptions to the rules.