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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
well-known 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


When independent clauses are joined by a
clauses
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


The plaintiff wanted to implead
clauses

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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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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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
Exception : When the sentence or
comma
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
Rule of thumb: If the introductory
comma
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 thirdparty 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
Comma splice using a comma as
One
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
How to correct
One
1 remedy : The rule fastens liability on
st

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
Original : The commission
One
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
The commission prescribes two
One
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
The commission prescribes two
One
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
Reyeses
Bosses
Framers

witnesses

Children

brethren

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sisters
workers

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
hers
theirs
ours
yours
whose

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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
semicolons to gloss
imprecise thought.
sentence structure,
can be over-used.

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writers use
over
Like any
semicolons

85

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, civilrights case, common-law privilege,
good-faith exception, long-latency
occupational-disease cases, takenothing judgment, third-degree 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--,
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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--,
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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, prejudicial, 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,
multi-institutional

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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 far-fetched.

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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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