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Why do we need punctuation marks in English language?
Punctuation is not a kind of code, but is there to make what you write clear, easy to understand and read. We should only use it as far as we need it in our writing as part of the process of communication with the people. It is useful and it is important and it should be accurate otherwise the meaning that we thought to convey may change. Punctuation is important for clear and easy understanding. Providing all information required but improper punctuation makes it very hard to read and understand. Punctuation includes correct usage of commas, semicolons, full stops etc. By writing punctually correct, we can have the following benefits:
Punctuation is the system of symbols (. , ! - : etc) that we use to separate sentences and parts of sentences, and to make their meaning clear. Each symbol is called a "punctuation mark".
The Value of Punctuation
An English teacher wrote these words on the board:
woman without her man is nothing
The teacher then asked the students to punctuate the words correctly. The men wrote the top line. The women wrote the bottom line.
Although there are general rules for English punctuation, there are differences of style between, for example, British and American English, some publishers and some writers. Anyone seeking guidance at an advanced level is recommended to consult a style guide (often included in good dictionaries) for their particular variety of English or editorial style.
So let’s start. We will take each mark one at a time and try to explain it so you will understand its usage more clearly.
Using The Period
The period (or full stop) is an important punctuation mark in English that actually has three different uses: ending a sentence, indicating abbreviations, and other stylistic uses.
The rules for using the period to abbreviations
Check this out!
Ms. Rosa S. Wallace, who works with Dr. Lewis for NBC in N.Y.C., met with Professor C. F. Richards from the University of Cal. in L.A. yesterday on Fth Ave. at 10:30 A.M.
In the above example sentence there are many words which have been shortened to abbreviations in a number of ways. The following rules will tell you whether or not a period is needed with different types of common abbreviations.
Word abbreviations are shortened versions of the original for purposes of efficiency. There are two kinds of abbreviations:
1. Abbreviations for multiple words phrases. These are made up of the first or few first letters of each word in the original phrase. They can be pronounced as:
-A series of the individual letters
NBC, KGB, IBM, LSD, TM, U.K.
-An acronym, in which the letters are pronounced as one word.
UNICEF, NATO, ANOVA
2. Abbreviations for single words. Usually pronounced as one word and can consist of:
-the first few letters of a word
Avenue - Ave., January - Jan.
-the first and last letter of a word
Mister - Mr., foot - ft.
-any combination of letters
Boulevard - Blvd., Route - Rte.
-the first letter of the word
Fahrenheit F, University - U.
-letters not in the original word
number - no., pound - lb., ounce - oz.
1. If you write a complete sentence enclosed in parenthesis standing alone (as an extra comment or after thought you want to add after the end of the first sentence), start it with a capital letter and end it with a period.
When the new recruit heard that he was accepted to the marines, he was very disappointed. (He had originally hoped to serve in the navy.)
2. However, If you write a complete sentence enclosed in parenthesis (as an inside comment) which is embedded in the surrounding sentence, you should not start it with a capital letter and not end it with a period.
When the new recruit heard that he was recruited to the marines (he had originally hoped to serve in the navy), he was very disappointed.
Note: You cannot put two or more complete sentences in parenthesis. For separating different phrases within parenthesis, use a colon, semicolon, dash or conjunction but never a period.
New army recruits consider several service options (among which are joining the navy, volunteering to become medics or doing office jobs) before actually being assigned to their position.
3. Do not use a period to end a sentence in a dialog when more text follows (e.g. a phrase telling who is being quoted). Use a comma instead and put it in the quotation marks.
"You will be recruited to the Marines," said the recruitment officer.
4. Do not end a sentence with a period if it already ends with another end punctuation mark (a question mark or an exclamation point).
Soldiers must obey their commanders' orders! (No extra period)
5. Do not use a period to end a sentence which ends with an abbreviation which itself ends with a period. Typical abbreviations which end with a period are: Mr., Mrs., Ms., St. (street or Saint), Mt. (mountain), Dr., Jr., Fri., Feb., a.m. and p.m. (Note: Do not abbreviate professor to Prof. in academic writing).
After a career in the army, she went on to work for Time Warner Inc. (no extra period)
6. However, you can use a question mark or an exclamation point to end a sentence ending with an abbreviation which itself ends with a period.
Do the soldiers have to sign in at 7:00 a.m.?
7. When listing items in a vertical list, consider ending each item on the list with a period, or not. We at WhiteSmoke advise to use periods if the items are complete and/or long sentences, and no periods if the items are just short phrases. Whatever you choose, remember to be consistent. If the items are numbered, use periods to separate the numbers from the text.
Use a period for abbreviations which do not fall into any of the above mentioned categories.
1. Use the period to set off list numbers in numbered vertical lists. You can also use closing parenthesis.
2. Use the period to set off headings, subheadings and in figure or table captions and identifiers.
3. Use a period for the decimal point in English (a comma is used in other parts of the world).
There is a 46.6 % increase in sales and 5.8% decline in customer complaints.
3. Always use periods in people's names.
C.S. Lewis (the author of Alice in Wonderland)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (former U.S.A. president)
4. Use periods with titles and honorifics.
Note: Use Miss (an old-fashioned title for an unmarried woman or for referring to young women or waitresses) without a period. Miss. with a period stands for Mississippi.
Miss America comes from Miss.
Use Ms. (a modern title for women used regardless of their marital status) with or without a period.
Ms. Smith or Ms Smith
Note: The period is optional for academic degrees. Whatever you choose, remember to be consistent.
M.D. or MD (Doctor of Medicine)
B.A. or BA (Bachelor of Arts)
5. The use of the period in geographical names is optional. Whatever you choose, remember to be consistent.
Note: For American states and Canadian provinces use periods only for the shortened form and not for the two-letter postal abbreviation. For two-word names, only one abbreviated form applies, in which the period is optional.
6. Use of periods in time indicators is optional. Whatever you choose, remember to be consistent.
Note: written in lower case, a.m. is used with periods, not to be confused with "am"
7. Do not use periods in metric measurements
8. Do not usually use periods in abbreviations for company and organization names, unless convention requires it.
9. Pay attention to the use of the period in Latin abbreviations.
The semicolon (;) is a punctuation mark in English separating elements but used much less than the comma. It is more often used in more advanced extended sentences and adds a formal tone. Its name implies that it indicates a separation that is neither full (as indicated by the period), nor minute (as indicated by a comma). The semicolon denotes a half-way separation between elements close in meaning. Skilled writers know that they should not overuse the semicolon but merely use for "spicing up" the text's punctuation, as explained in the following sections. Do not simply use the semicolon instead of a comma in order to make the text appear "fancy."
Check this out!
The Smiths went up north for their vacation; the Johnsons went down south for theirs.
Analysis! The above sentence is composed of two independent clauses which could normally be separated with a comma and coordinating conjunction. However, using a semicolon to link the clauses together without a conjunction is an elegant lighter alternative.
1. When two independent clauses are relatively short and the relationship between them (contrast, addition, cause, effect etc) can be inferred without the coordinating conjunction, some writers find it more sophisticated to omit the coordinating conjunction and replace the comma with a semicolon. Not over-stressing the logical relationships and letting the reader infer them more subtly is a stylistic technique that advanced writers sometimes use. However, remember that the semicolon should be used sparingly, for any of its uses mentioned here.
1. The Smiths went up north for their vacation; the Johnsons went down south for theirs. [contrast]
2. David went to Paris for his honeymoon; it has always been his dream. [cause]
2. You should not use the semicolon to link between independent clauses if the relationship between them may not be easily inferred. In such cases, leave the comma followed by the appropriate coordinating conjunction.
I can only have a short vacation; I will be one week off work.
[relationship not clear]
Analysis: The contrast in sentence 1 denotes that a week is not considered too short a vacation. The result in sentence 2 denotes that one week is indeed short and is the result of being able to take only a short vacation, maybe for financial constraints. The reason in sentence 3 denotes that the unfortunately short vacation is due to probable work schedule constraints.
3. Consider using a semicolon to unite two independent clauses, which are on the one hand, self standing sentences; and on the other hand, two halves of one whole. This allows a smoother transition that lets the text flow, instead of creating "borders" with commas and connectors.
The food I had on the flight to London was terrible; the food I had on the flight to Paris was excellent.
Right or Wrong?
Dan has decided to be a vegetarian, therefore, he chose the vegetable dish on the flight to India.
Wrong! The above two independent clauses are related to one another in a cause-effect relationship, marked by the conjunctive adverb therefore. A period may create too much of a division between the two related clauses. Using a comma may result in a comma splice error. The solution is to use a semicolon ending the first independent clause and a comma after the conjunctive adverb, as in:
Dan has decided to be a vegetarian; therefore, he chose the vegetable dish on the flight to India.
1. Use a semicolon between two independent clauses linked by either a conjunctive adverb or a transitional expression ( in addition, for example, on the one hand, nevertheless, in other words, namely, meanwhile, in fact) when it comes in the middle of a sentence, between the clauses. Put a semicolon before the linking expression and a comma after it, as it serves as an introductory element to the second independent clause.
Dan thought the flight food was delicious; in fact, he asked the flight attendant for some recipes.
The flight was delayed due to the workers' strike; consequently, we had to change our holiday plans.
The flight did not include any meals; however, the price was conveniently low.
Note: Using a comma with a synonymous coordinating conjunction on this last example sentence would not change the sentence meaning except for allowing it to seem less formal than with the semicolon and conjunctive adverb. Remember to be consistent with your punctuation style as it influences the text's tone (formal or informal).
2. Do not put a comma between two independent clauses linked by a conjunctive adverb/ transitional expression, as this leads to the comma splice error. Remember, you separate two independent clauses with a comma, only when they are separated by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet).
Dan thought the flight food was delicious, and he asked the flight attendant for some recipes.
3. You can use a semicolon before coordinating conjunctions or before any elements (not necessarily introduced by coordinating conjunctions) when these are either long or contain commas or other punctuation marks within them.
Staff on this multinational airliner may come from such European countries as France, The Czech Republic, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany etc.; or they may come from Asian countries such as Singapore, Korea or The Philippines; or they may come from Latin American countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Peru.
4. These elements can number more than two, thus creating a list of elements. The semicolon is needed to distinguish between the usually long elements, which can be phrases or clauses.
5. Even when elements are not long or do not have inner punctuation marks, use semicolons when commas alone may make the sentence hard to understand, or in cases where you feel that a comma would not be strong enough. In the following example, the reader may get confused as to which group checks in with which. A, B, C, and D may be falsely perceived as a series. Using a semicolon clarifies the various group pairings.
For this flight, group A checks in with B, C and D check in with E, and F checks in with G.
For this flight, group A checks in with B; C and D check in with E; and F checks in with G.
semicolon style conventions
1. Do not use a capital letter after a semicolon, unless it is followed by a proper noun.
2. The semicolon and the colon are the only two punctuation marks which should be placed after closing quotation marked when they follow a quoted text.
3. When a semicolon appears after an italicized text, italicize it as well.
4. You can leave either one or two spaces after a semicolon. Remember to be consistent.
Right or Wrong ?
The ingredients for the chocolate cake : flour, cocoa, butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract.
Wrong ! The above sentence includes a list of cake ingredients introduced by a colon. A colon is indeed expected to introduce a list but the text preceding it must constitute an independent clause making up a sentence that can stand alone. As the preceding text is merely a noun phrase and not an independent clause answering to the double requirement of both subject and predicate, placing the colon here is wrong. A correct wording would therefore be:
We need several ingredients for the chocolate cake : flour, cocoa, butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract.
If you want to know more, read the rules for colon usage below:
1. Use a colon after an independent clause that introduces and states the nature of the list that follows. The preceding sentence must include a phrase that serves as a generalizing term common to the list elements.
If you want to improve your cooking, you can do three things : read cookbooks, go to cooking classes, and cook as much as you can.
[preceding text is a stand alone sentence including an independent clause; three things is a generalizing term introducing the list items]
Your dishes will be judged according to four criteria : taste, culinary level, cooking skill, and presentation.
[preceding text is an independent clause; four criteria is a generalizing term introducing the listed items]
2. If the introductory independent clause ends in the expressions such as, including, like or consists of, do not use a colon.
The contestants prepared various kinds of ethnic dishes such as goulash, sauerkraut, empanadas, and Beef Bourguignon.
3. If the introductory independent clause ends in the expressions the following or as follows, you must use a colon.
The contestants prepared the following kinds of ethnic dishes : goulash, sauerkraut, empanadas, and Beef Bourguignon.
4. Put a colon after the introductory sentence when the list items are written vertically.
5. An appositive is a word or group of words that rename a noun or a pronoun. When an appositive is introduced by an independent clause, use a colon. When the introductory text is not an independent clause, use a comma.
Trained chefs are supposed to know how to prepare a proper Beef Bourguignon : prime meat cubes cooked in a full-bodied red wine, aromatic vegetables and fresh condiments.
[Beef Bourguignon is renamed in the appositive after the colon, detailing what it is made of]
1. When a second independent clause explains or summarizes a preceding independent clause, you can use a colon to separate them. In this way, the colon serves as a prompt alluding to the second clause as being an answer to an implied question raised in the first independent clause.
There is a vital issue every chef has to consider : Will the soufflé rise properly or dramatically collapse in front of the guests ?
[implied question: What is the vital issue? Answer: The rise and fall of the soufflé]
I will always remember the first time my husband cooked for me : It was a charming Friday Evening with a romantic candle light dinner he prepared.
[implied question: What was the first time like? Answer: A Friday evening candle light dinner]
2. It is sometimes possible to use a colon after an element which is not an independent clause, but merely a fragment. This is permissible only if it is logical for the fragment to stand on its own. Take care, however, that beginner writers should avoid this, as the ability to judge when such instances are possible develops with time and experience.
So far so good : The soufflé looks as if it is going to rise impressively. The guests are not going to get disappointed.
[implied question: What's good ? Answer: The soufflé will rise]
1. When one unit of information expands or derives from another, consider putting a colon in between them. This makes the relation between the two units more obvious as it alerts the reader to regard the latter unit as significant to the former. This rather advanced use of the colon enables connecting two sentences together in an elegant and more concise manner, as it saves up on some wording.
The new club president was elected by an extremely narrow margin. The count was 8,756 in favor and 8,250 against.
[The reader has to put in some thinking in order to realize the purpose of the given figures as related to the election results]
The new club president was elected by an extremely narrow margin : 8,756 in favor and 8,250 against.
[The colon makes the connection between election results and figures clearer]
2. You can consider using the colon to emphasize a point you want the reader to pay attention to. Instead of putting the related elements in separate sentences, juxtaposing them with a colon makes the relation - usually that of a contrast - more forceful.
A poor homeless child was sentenced to 6 months in prison. His crime was that he stole a few apples and some bread to feed his starving brothers and sisters.
[two separate sentences, no special emphasis]
A poor homeless 8-year-old child was sentenced to 6 months in prison. His crime : stealing a few apples and some bread to feed his starving brothers and sisters.
[The colon emphasizes the unjust contrast between the child's age and poor status and the punishment he received]
1. Use a colon to separate between numbers in a ratio. In case these numbers are written as words, use the word to instead of a colon.
Chef Roberto defeated Chef Castellans 4 :1 (four to one) at the regional cook-offs.
2. Use a colon to separate the hours from the minutes and seconds.
The marathon winner passed the finishing line at 2:23:05.
-The British style is to use a period instead of a colon.
We arrived at the restaurant at 5.45 in the afternoon.
-In military settings, hours and minutes are written without colons with four digits on a 24-hour clock.
The morning shift starts its guard duty at 0730, and the evening shift at 1700.
3. Use a colon to separate a main title from a subtitle in books, articles etc.
4. Use a colon to separate Bible chapters and verses.
Look it up in Psalms 14: 4-8 and compare to Genesis 23, 23-24
5. Use a colon in memos.
7. When an independent clause introduces a quotation or spoken text in a dialog, use a colon. If the introductory text is not an independent clause, use a comma instead.
Chef Roberto won the cooking contest and said excitedly : "I would like to thank my grandmother for teaching me everything I know. "
[introductory text is an independent clause]
He said ,"I would like to thank my grandmother for teaching me everything I know. "
[introductory text is not an independent clause which can stand alone]
8. Use a colon to separate lower level subheadings and figures or table identifiers from the text that follows them.
9. Use a colon to separate characters' names from their lines in scripts and screenplays.
Chef Roberto : "To cook or not to cook, that is the question. "
1. You may leave one or two spaces following a colon. Be consistent with any option you choose.
2. When a colon appears after quoted text, put it after the closing quotation mark.
3. Italicize the colon in case it appears immediately before an italicized text.
4. Start the text following the colon with either an upper-case or lower-case letter. Be consistent with any option you choose.
Hyphens are used to link words that function as a single adjective before a noun. They are used with compound numbers, and to avoid confusion or awkward letter combinations. Hyphens are also used with certain prefixes and suffixes and in certain special cases.
Using the hyphen in spelling for linking between words of compound nouns, verbs and adjectives
• Compound words are composed of two or more words that express one concept together (shown in bold below). They may function as nouns, verbs, or adjectives in the sentence. Compounds come in three forms: open compounds are written with separate words, hyphenated compounds use hyphens, and closed compounds are written as one word.
doing a night shift, the butterfly’s life cycle, suffer from side effects, "She is his partner in crime" (nouns), drop in for a visit, stick up a bank (verbs)
act as a stand-in, call for a time-out, She’s a stick-in-the-mud (nouns), a clear-cut decision, a long-term plan, a two-way street, a water-resistant watch (adjectives), to cold-shoulder someone (verbs)
a handbook, be at a standstill (nouns), a longtime friend, a clearheaded woman, a twofold increase (adjectives), to crossbreed species, to handwrite a letter (verbs)
• It is usually difficult to guess what form the compound will take. The solution is to always consult a reliable dictionary, but also take into account that different dictionaries may suggest different forms. This is due to the language constantly changing. Rules regarding compound adjectives will be discussed in our review about the hyphen in punctuation.
• Tip: The older a compound is in use, the more chances to it being written in one word, and vice versa. The hyphenated version tends to be a mid-way stage.
• If one part of the compound is a single letter, it is usually open or hyphenated. The compound email is an exception that has turned into a closed compound, due to pervasive usage.
the H-bomb, y-axis, U-turn
F distribution, V neck, X chromosome
• Do not hyphenate phrases originating form foreign languages, particularly Latin.
a priori, post hoc, vice versa
• The following are commonly hyphenated by mistake, but should be written without hyphens.
more or less, ongoing, under way
Use hyphens whenever a prefix would create an ambiguous word. For example, after you do something you can redo it. However, if you fine someone, you would have to re-fine them (because refine means something else).
Use a hyphen after a prefix to avoid repeating the same letter too many times. Here are some examples:
• Most prefixes and suffixes are attached to the root word without a hyphen. In some cases, two versions are acceptable (nonaggressive/non-aggressive, infra-red/infrared), but the tendency nowadays is to omit the hyphen.
Only in the cases below should the hyphen be used.
• Use a hyphen after the prefixes all-, ex-, quasi-, and self-. Don’t use a hyphen when self is the root word.
Yes: All-inclusive, ex-husband, self-esteem
No: selfishness, selfless
• Use a hyphen before the suffixes –elect, -odd, and -free.
the president-elect, thirty-odd students, sugar-free
• Use a hyphen when the root word is a numeral.
• Use a hyphen when the root word is capitalized.
pre-Columbian, pre-Reformation, Buddha-like
• Use a hyphen to avoid an awkward looking string of letters.
No: antiintelectual, shellike, multititled, intraarterial
Yes: anti-intellectual, shell-like, multi-titled, intra-arterial
• Use a hyphen if the word would have a different meaning without the hyphen.
The star football player has resigned. (quit)
The star football player has re-signed. (will continue working)
• Use a hyphen if the word would be difficult to read if it weren’t hyphenated.
Coinventor may be read as coin ventor, so write co-inventor
Doubale may be read as doub le, so write do-able
• Use a hyphen when the parts of the compounds are not commonly used together.
Common compounds: worldwide, clockwise
Unusual compounds: community-wide, nutrition-wise
• If you use a word more than once in one sentence, each time with a different modifier, consider using a suspension hyphen. However, do not overuse the hyphen in this role. If the repeated word comes last in the compound, write the full compound at the end, and hyphens in the earlier combinations.
Clumsy: He was referred to both clinic-based services and hospital-based services.
Better: He was referred to both clinic- and hospital-based services.
Clumsy: You can either choose a two-month program, a three-month program, or a four-month program.
Better: You can either choose a two-, three, or four-month program.
• If the repeated word is the first part of the compound, write the full compound in the beginning and use hyphens for the next combinations.
The company-initiated and -sponsored events must be attended by all employees.
This has been our review on the hyphen in punctuation. For better spelling, it is no less important that you read our review about the hyphen’s roles in spelling. These include:
• Linking between words of compound nouns and verbs
• Linking a prefix or suffix to a word
• Linking words that represent numbers
• Most writers today use a word processor that automatically aligns text so that no end-of-line-word-break is needed. Read this section if you are still using a typewriter or have to adhere to certain type-set requirements that make it impossible to avoid such breaks.
• We usually see end-of-line-word-breaks in printed books and newspapers, where a word is too long to fit on a line. Some amusing word-breaks have been noted in print media, such as the-rapist, men-swear, or mans-laughter. To avoid such embarrassing or other unclear word-breaks, follow the rules below:
• Break words only between syllables. Consult a dictionary that indicates syllable division within a word. As dictionaries of US and UK English differ on this point, be consistent in style.
No: ent-ertain, proc-eed
Yes: enter-tain, pro-ceed
• Do not break short words, one-syllable words, or words pronounced as one syllable, regardless of how long these are.
No: we-alth, school-ed, en-vy
Yes: wealth, schooled, envy
• Do not break a word if only one or two letters will be left on a line.
No: a-lone, funn-y, discov-er
Yes: alone, funny, dis-cover or disco-ver
• Break between two consonants according to pronunciation.
No: ful-lest, furnit-ure, referr-ing
Yes: full-est, furni-ture, refer-ring
Note: The following three rules are not compulsory but highly recommended.
• Break compound words at the hyphen, or between the words (in closed compounds).
No: by-prod-uct, com-monplace
Yes: by-product, common-place
• Break words that contain prefixes and/or suffixes, between these and the root word, not breaking any of the words' components themselves.
No: bro-therhood, superflu-ous
Yes: brother-hood, super-fluous
• Do not break a word if the two resulting parts are words themselves, but are unrelated.
No: bin-go, are-as, prose-cute
Yes: bingo, areas, prosecute
• Use a hyphen with any two-word number (21-99) or fraction.
thirty-two, two hundred fifty-six, one-quarter, 2 and two-thirds
• If the fraction includes a two-word number, hyphenate only that two-word number, as more hyphens may make the fraction unclear
Yes: forty-five hundredths
• Use a hyphen with any two-word number (21-99) or fraction.
thirty-two, two hundred fifty-six, one-quarter, 2 and two-thirds
The exclamation point ( !) is a terminal punctuation mark in English and is usually used at the end of a sentence with no extra period. It can turn a simple indicative or declarative sentence into a strong command or reflect an emotional outburst. It can also indicate rhetorical questions. Do not use an exclamation point in texts that are neither literary dialog nor personal expressive writing. It is inappropriate to put an exclamation point in formal pieces of writing such as a business resume, school book report, or a due college paper, as the style expected in these should be objective, standard, and informative. Using an exclamation point in such settings creates an impression of unwarranted exaggeration, which in turn is perceived as amateurish, marketing oriented or just plainly childish. Do use it in stories and personal communication, and even then, sparingly.
1. In dialogue, use the exclamation point to indicate a strong command in an imperative sentence. This denotes a firm and direct order.
2. In dialogue, use the exclamation point to convey an emphatic declaration, which can indicate any of the following emotions:
3. Even in literary or dialog writing, over-use of the exclamation point should be avoided, using alternative wording or other punctuation marks to express emotion. Experienced writers know how to make their readers infer emotions from context.
Avoid: The Japanese food at Kyoto was just out of this world!!! Super-duper!!! These guys know how to cook!
[Exaggerated enthusiasm using too many exclamation points]
Consider: The Japanese food at Kyoto was the best we have ever had. It appears that the chefs there are highly professional.
[Subtle enthusiasm using alternative wording with periods instead of exclamation points]
4. Do not use the exclamation point with a period, comma, colon, or semicolon.
5. Do not use the exclamation point to express overt amazement or sarcasm. Use other words for rephrasing. At 3.3 meters and 7 tons (!), the African elephant is the biggest (!) land animal on Earth. Yet, Johnny (!) thinks that the Indian elephant is bigger.
[1st exclamation point expresses amazement, 2nd exclamation point expresses sarcasm]
At a majestic 3.3 meters and 7 tons, the African elephant is the largest land animal on Earth. Yet, Johnny, stubbornly, thinks that the Indian elephant is larger.
[majestic expresses amazement, stubbornly expresses sarcasm, both instead of the exclamation point].
6. "In was back again, a hopeless cripple." literary prose or poetry, an exclamation point is sometimes seen in the middle of sentences, where it need not be followed by a capital letter. See also the exclamation point style conventions below.
"Two years earlier, I had walked off into the sunset – cured! It’s a miracle! She can walk!
Nora Ephron, Heartburn
Check this out!
Analysis ! When the above rhetorical question is used with different punctuation marks, the rhetoric implication is altered (as shown in the brackets). This demonstrates the emotional effect punctuation marks may have in a text.
If you want to know more, read the punctuation rules below
1. A rhetorical question is a question for which no answer is expected or for which the answer is self-evident. A rhetorical question can end in either a question mark, or an exclamation point or a period, depending on context and the writer's purpose.
I did everything I could for that company; do you think they thanked me?
How can I ever thank you enough!
[obviously you will have to work hard thanking]
How could I have known that those documents I had sent were top secret.
[You couldn't have]
2. An exclamation point at the end of a sentence can create the following effects:
Do you really believe I can read all these books about elephants by tomorrow!
Aren't the twins adorable!
[wonder and awe]
Is there any way on this earth I can ever get my father's approval !
3. Rhetorical questions in a dialog are better ended with a period, as this imparts a more realistic tone.
4. You can use an exclamation point with italics to show shock or incredulity.
She said what!
Writers sometime like to sparingly use an exclamation point enclosed in parenthesis to draw the reader's attention to unlikely, ironic or unexpected sentences. However, it may be more elegant to choose different wordings to express irony and such.
After his 98th (!) hot dog, Abner Manishewitz won first place in the L.A. County eat-offs.
[Exclamation point expresses amazement and maybe also disgust]
After his hard to believe and visually disturbing 98th hot dog, Abner Manishewitz won first place in the L.A. County eat-offs.
[his hard to believe and visually disturbing expresses amazement and maybe also disgust]
1. Do not use a comma after an exclamation point occurring in the middle of a sentence.
"You didn't do everything I asked!" her boss said angrily.
2. Do not use a period after an exclamation point occurring in the end of a sentence, even if followed by quotation marks.
Her editor always likes to say, "This writer is on the verge of a nervous breakdown!" It always makes me laugh.
3. You can use an exclamation point with other visual emphasizes, such as capital letters, boldface or italic type (again, this should be done sparingly)
"You didn't actually agree to that offer!" her boss asked incredulously.
4. When an exclamation point follows a quoted text, put it before the closing quotation mark if it applies just to the quoted text. Put the exclamation point outside the closing quotation mark if it applies to the entire sentence.
If only I could finally say "I've graduated from college" like all my friends!
[entire sentence is exclamatory]
"I've graduated from college !" cried Dan to his grandmother excitedly on the phone.
[only quoted text is in exclamatory, no extra comma after an exclamation mark]
5. When an exclamation point is used with parenthesis, put it inside the parenthesis if only the enclosed text is exclamatory. When the whole sentence is exclamatory, put the exclamation mark outside the parenthesis. If the text enclosed in the parenthesis is a stand alone sentence, add the appropriate terminal punctuation mark. Always put a terminal punctuation point at the end of the sentence, regardless of what punctuation mark appears in the parenthesis.
For months, I stayed in extra hours to complete the project (I couldn't bear it!).
[exclamation point inside the parenthesis, only enclosed text is exclamatory]
It's just not fair that Dan has to work over time (despite being denied of a promotion)!
[exclamation point outside the parenthesis, whole sentence is exclamatory]
6. When an exclamation point immediately follows an italicized text, italicize it as well.
You're kidding, he promoted her!
As our brief article will show, those tiny 6s and 9s – the quotation marks – turn out to have quite a few usages in addition to just indicating quotation. It is important for good writers to be able to make use of the wide range of quotation mark usage, as it is the small details that give your writing the final polishing touches.
1. Quotation marks only appear in pairs, so do not forget to add the closing quotation marks where needed.
2. In most computer fonts, opening quotation marks look like tiny 6s ( “ ) and the closing quotation marks like tiny 9s ( ”). Make sure you are consistent with these forms. Regular typewriters usually have regular quotation marks which are also acceptable ( "__ "). The same applies for single quotation marks.
3. American English uses double quotation marks for all the uses reviewed in this article, except for quotes within quotes, expressed by single quotation marks. British English typically does the opposite, starting with single quotation marks and setting off internal quotes with double quotation marks. Canadian English uses both styles.
4. If double and single quotation marks happen to touch each other, separate them with one space.
My uncle, who was very critical of the government, would always say, "Don't believe any word they tell you about government 'reforms ' " and continued with his theories of political corruption.
5. If you need to set off a quote within a quote within a quote, you need to go from double to single to double quotation marks. Nevertheless, most writing guides call for refraining from such "recursive" quoting and rephrase the sentence in such a way that would call for no more than two-level quoting.
6. Refrain from using a single quotation mark with an apostrophe. If the need for this arises, rephrase your sentence. ”
No: “…quote ‘a man’s world’ quote...”
7. There is a difference between dialog and non-dialog text when it comes to combining other punctuation marks with quotation marks. When you use quotation marks in dialog, all the other punctuation marks should be placed within the quotations. When you write non-dialog text, there are some variations.
"I want to be alone," said Greta.
Greta said, "I want to go."
"Leave me alone!" Greta shouted.
"Why can't you just leave me alone?" asked Greta angrily.
"Just go, leave me –” she continued.
8. In non-dialog text, put periods and commas inside the quotation marks. However, colons and semicolons always go outside the quotation marks, unless they are part of the original quote.
On yesterday's quiz, you could get either "very good," "good," or "pass."
[Comma and period before closing quotation marks]
I knew the teacher would say, "I am very pleased with the quiz results ": Nearly everybody got "very good”; however, some students did not even pass.
[Colon and semicolon after closing quotation marks]
9. Put dashes, question marks and exclamation points inside quotation marks only if they apply to the quoted part, and outside if they apply to the whole sentence.
I just love Madonna's song Who's that Girl?"
[Question marks apply only to quoted text]
Did you like Madonna's song "Vogue”?
[Question mark applies to whole sentence]
"You won't believe it! Madonna was on my flight to Paris!" Joy cried out loudly.
[Exclamation point applies only to quoted text]
If only I could remember all the words of "Vogue”!
[Exclamation point applies to whole sentence]
10. In British English, all punctuation marks go outside the quotation marks. Canadian English uses both American and British styles. Whatever style you choose, remember to be consistent in any given piece of writing.
This article will look at the ways in which you can use quotation marks as a punctuation mark in your writing.
1. When you quote directly from a printed or non-printed source, you must enclose the quoted text, be it a fragment or a full statement, in quotation marks, both in the beginning and end of the quoted text. In MLA style, if a quotation is no more than 4 lines long, it is considered short and thus incorporated into the text. Documentation information (reference to the origin of the quote) is given before the sentence's ending period.
Whenever I learn a new language, I am always reminded of my high-school French teacher who always used to say that "practice makes perfect."
[Fragment in a short quote incorporated into the general text body]
Text body...After surveying a large corpus of research, Smith contends that "according to recent educational surveys, it is largely accepted that English has now become so widely spoken around the world that it can easily be regarded as the 'international language' of the 21st century" (Smith, 2005) . Other researchers further support this notion by...
[Full statement in a short quote of three lines incorporated into the general text body]
2. In MLA style, if a quotation is more than 4 lines long, it is considered long and is not incorporated into the text. Instead, indent the long quote as a separate block of text. Documentation information (reference to the origin of the quote) is given after the quote's ending period. You do not use quotation marks with indented block quotations. If the block quotation is part of the introductory sentence (as in the below example), it does not begin with a capital letter. If the block quotation starts with a separate sentence, not grammatically related to the introductory sentence, then it does begin with a capital letter.
After surveying a large corpus of research, Smith contends that according to recent educational surveys, it is largely accepted that English has now become so widely spoken around the world that it can easily be regarded as the "international language " of the 21st century. It is estimated that about 25% of the world's population is currently studying or using English at various levels of proficiency. Although many English speakers regard themselves as "Native Speakers," only about 400 million of them can rightfully do so, having been raised and educated in a fully English speaking environment. (Smith, 2005)
3. In MLA style, quotation marks appearing within quotation marks have to be distinguished from one another. In short quotations of prose, use single quotation marks for internal quotations. In long quotation marks, keep the double quotation marks as they appear in the original text from which you are quoting.
1. When writing the exact words (direct words) of a speaker quoted in dialog, you need to set the speech apart from the narrative (the words of the author telling the story) and differentiate between the different speakers' words. Therefore, enclose the words of each speaker's line with both opening and closing quotation marks. Non-dialog text may appear in the same paragraph as dialog.
2. When writing a dialog, you should start a new paragraph every time the writer changes. If the spoken lines are brief and you prefer to keep all information pertaining to a certain scene together, then you may start a new paragraph at the beginning of a new scene.
3. If a speaker is being quoted in more than one paragraph, use double quotation marks in the beginning of each paragraph, but add the closing quotation marks only at the end of the last paragraph of that speaker's paragraph sequence.
My English as a foreign language class used to meet twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays evenings. We were a mixture of exchange students from all over the world trying to improve our English in London. Our teacher, Bella, was a lively redhead grandmother, looking much less than her real age, always smiling and laughing. Each lesson would start in the same way. Good evening everybody, let's see now, who's late today? “Bella used to say.
"It's Jose, he's late again, “said Hans, the class genius and teacher's pet. Then, the Indian girls would start giggling at Hans's funny accent. "That Hans sure talks funny, but he's cute and... “they would converse secretly amongst themselves.
"Who has something interesting to say about yesterday's news? I asked you to watch the 20:00 o'clock news.
Yes, Sven, what can you tell us about..." Bella would always start with Sven, who worked as a political commentator for Swedish T.V. and...
4. Do not use quotation marks in screenplays and scripts, where every line is dialog. Start a new paragraph every time the speaker changes.
1. When referring to words used as words, you can mark them out by either quotation marks, underlining or italics. Whichever option you choose, be consistent throughout any given piece of writing.
It is a common mistake among students of English to confuse "expect" and "except” when reading or writing.
[Words set off with quotation marks]
It is a common mistake among students of English to confuse expect and except when reading or writing.
[Words set off using italics]
2. When you use technical terms related to a certain profession or field of study, enclose them in quotation marks and provide a definition. This is important as your audience may not be familiar with these expressions and may take them at face value. If the audience of your writing is familiar with professional jargon, it would be unnecessary or even insulting to use quotation marks. Do not reuse quotation marks with technical terms once they have been introduced and defined.
[Term introduced in quotation marks, definition provided between dashes, reoccurrence of term without quotation marks]
3. When you use a word that in itself is not unusual, but locate it in a context in which it would have a different nonstandard sense or is jargon related, enclose it in quotation marks. This way, the reader understands that the word is used in a manner out of the ordinary.
In the grammatical jargon of English verb tenses, a "simple” verb means that the verb is composed of one word and simply states an action or situation. Actions which are incomplete and still ongoing are expressed by "progressive” forms, while "perfect” tenses denote the completeness of the action rather than it having been performed perfectly or without flaws.
4. When you use self-coined terms your readers are unlikely to be familiar with, draw their attention to these by using quotation marks and providing definitions.
On our last writing assignment about creating instructions for a new game, we received one grade for writing proficiency and one for "idiot proofing , " that is, how clear and self-explanatory the instructions would be to even the most obtuse reader.
5. Use quotation marks with words and phrases where the sentence would be difficult to understand, as the reader may not be able to relate certain words to others by, for example, mistaking parts of speech.
unclear: In some word processors, track changes is a feature that allows you to make editing changes visible.
[Track changes may be mistaken for a demand directed at the reader]
better: In some word processors, "track changes" is a feature that allows you to make editing changes visible.
[Track changes is perceived as an independent concept]
6. Use quotation marks with English translations of words and phrases from other languages. Use italics for the original in the source language.
My old Latin teacher would always complain that his wife could keep on chatting with her country club friends ad infinitum (“continuing forever ").
7. Use quotation marks around words you mean to use ironically or in any other non-literal manner.
The "reform” proposed by the Ministry of Education turned out to be yet another budget-cut scheme.
[Ironical use of reform]
In politically correct language, bad looking girls are sometimes referred to as "aesthetically challenging.”
[Non-standard use of aesthetically challenging]
8. Academic writing does not usually tolerate slang or cliches and prefers different wordings to express the same idea. If you cannot or do not wish to avoid these for stylistic purposes, use quotation marks to set them off the text.
Avoid: When a new American brand enters the local market, initial consumer response has it "selling like hot cakes."
Better: When a new American brand enters the local market, initial consumer response creates an immediate considerable demand.
9. Use quotation marks with nicknames when these appear together with the full name. Nicknames on their own do not warrant quotation marks. If the nickname is well known, you do not need to give it with the full name.
Cherilyn LaPiere, better known as the singer Cher
[Known person, no quotation marks around Cher]
Lou "the Lizard" Maloney
[unknown person, quotation marks around the nickname the Lizard, which appears with the full name ]
10. In order to distinguish some phrases used as adjectives, it is recommended to set them off with quotation marks.
I think the "artsy-fartsy” crowd she is hanging out with is a bit snobbish.
I don't like the "don't call us – we'll call you” attitude you get in job interviews.
11. Do not use quotation marks with a word simply to call attention to it or express sarcasm.
No: She was "very” pleased with the students' grades.
12. Do not enclose or use quotation marks with titles of school essays or academic papers in quotation marks, unless they include another title that does require quotation marks.
Comparative Literary Analysis of Shakespeare's "Macbeth” with Ibsen's "A Doll's House.”
1. When referring to short works by their titles, enclose these titles with quotation marks. Short works may consist of short stories, essays, poems, magazine or journal articles, book chapters, brochures, pamphlets, songs and episodes from television or radio series.
We discussed Baldwin's "When my Dungeon Shook” back in high school.
Frost's poem "The Road not Taken” has really gotten me thinking about my plans for the future.
I think "Vogue” is one of Madonna's greatest songs ever!
I couldn't sleep after watching "The Best of both Worlds," the double Star-Trek episode broadcasted last week.
[TV series episode]
2. Longer works, such as titles or names of books, plays, films, magazines, journals, newspapers, and TV or radio series are not enclosed in quotation marks. Instead, they are sometimes italicized or underlined, and sometimes they are given in regular Roman type. As there may be many variations, consult a style guide in case you need to write along the lines of one.
The cinematic trilogy The Matrix is partly based on Jean Baudriard's book Simulacra and Simulations.
[Film, book - given in italics]
There is a very positive review in The New York Times on last night's performance of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.
[Newspaper, musical piece - given in regular Roman Type]
3. Do not use quotation marks with political parties, geographical locations and institutions.
The Democratic Party held rallies in suburban YMCA centers in the southern districts.
Using question marks for indicating queries
1. Use the question mark when posing a direct query in an interrogative sentence. This denotes that the speaker is seeking information.
Are there any letters for me this morning?
When did you finish writing that report?
2. Use the question mark to turn a statement into a question. This denotes that the speaker is assuming or hoping for a certain reply.
3. Use the question mark in statements ending with a word inflected as a query and with question tags.
4. Use the question mark after a direct question which is inserted into a statement. If the question comes at the end, separate it with a comma. Capitalization of the question after the comma is used for extreme emphasis but is rarely recommended.
Her boss wondered, Was she really doing her job the best she could?
[Question capitalized for extreme emphasis]
The question was, was she really doing the best she could?
[Question not capitalized – recommended]
5. If the inserted question comes in the beginning, put the question mark in the middle but do not capitalize the word following it.
Was she really doing her job the best she could? Her boss wondered.
Was she really doing the best she could? was the question.
6. When writing a series of questions, use a question mark for each item, even if items are not complete sentences. Capitalization of the question items is optional so be consistent with whatever option you choose.
The board members had to decide on a new course of action for the company. Expand? Sell out? Consider new financial reforms?
7. Do not use a question mark in statements that contain indirect questions (written as declarative sentences).
No: Her boss wondered whether she was really doing her job the best she could?
Yes: Her boss wondered whether she was really doing her job the best she could.
No: I kept asking myself how she had done it.
Yes: I kept asking myself how she had done it.
Using question marks for indicating requests
1. Use a question mark with a mild command or polite request instead of a period that would make the request more demanding.
Would you take these reports down to accounting?
[Polite request – It would be nice if you do.]
Would you take these reports down to accounting.
[Directive order – Take these reports]]
Would you pass me the salt, please. Vs.Would you please pass me the salt?
If you will follow me, please.
Using question marks for indicating rhetorical question
Check this out!
Aren't his paintings amazing? [Interested or surprised reaction]
Aren't his paintings amazing. [Uninterested or musing reaction]
Aren't his paintings amazing! [Indignant or exciting reaction]
Analysis! When the above rhetorical question is used with different punctuation marks, the rhetoric implication is altered (as shown in the brackets). This demonstrates the emotional effect punctuation marks may have in a text.
Using question marks for indicating uncertainty
1. Use a question mark enclosed in parenthesis (?) if a date or another number is unknown or doubtful among the experts. Do not use a question mark to communicate that you are unsure of the information you write, as this weakens the authority of your writing.
Joan of Arc, 1412 (?) – 1431, is considered a French heroine.
2. To avoid using (?) for expressing uncertainty, consider using the word about.
Joan of Arc, born about 1412 – 1431, is considered a French heroine.
3. Do not use (?) to express irony or sarcasm in serious academic writing.
Most people find office filing a pleasant (?) assignment. or
Most people find office filing as pleasant as having a bad case of the flu.
Question mark style conventions
1. Do not use a comma after a question mark occurring in the middle of a sentence.
"You didn't actually agree to that offer?" her boss asked incredulously.
2. Do not use a period after a question mark occurring in the end of a sentence, even if followed by quotation marks.
Did you actually take that offer?
3. When a question mark follows a quoted text, put it before the closing quotation mark if it applies just to the quoted text. Put the question mark outside the closing quotation mark if it applies to the entire sentence.
Do you think it would be better in this case to stick to the attitude of "what's in it for me”?
[Entire sentence in question]
I really do not like her attitude of "what's in it for me?"
[Only quoted text is in question, no extra period after a question mark]
4. When a question mark is used with parenthesis, put it inside the parenthesis if the enclosed sentence stands alone. When the parenthesis enclose just part of a sentence, put the question mark outside the parenthesis. Always add another terminal punctuation mark to the end of the sentence.
For months, she stayed in extra hours to complete the project (Was she that eager to get promoted?).
[Question mark inside the parenthesis, enclosed text is a stand alone sentence]
Did she really stay in extra hours to complete the project (despite being denied of a promotion)?
[Question mark outside the parenthesis, enclosed text is part of a sentence]
5. When a question mark immediately follows an italicized text, italicize it as well.
You're kidding, he didn't promote her?
As our article shows, the ubiquitous comma, as it appears just everywhere has numerous uses. The understanding of when and how to use the comma, is vital to writing quality English in a range of contexts.
1. Use a comma before (not after) a coordinating conjunction that links two or more independent clauses. The coordinating conjunctions are: and, but, for, or, nor, yet, so.
2. If the two independent clauses are short and there is no risk of ambiguity if a comma is not used, you can omit the comma. However, in academic writing comma usage is always preferred.
The grades were final and there was no discussion about them.
3. Avoid comma splices, which result in a common error that occurs when a comma is used to separate independent clauses which are not linked by a conjunction. The solution to a comma splice situation is either to add a conjunction, or separate the independent clauses into two individual sentences or to use a semi-colon. Your choice depends on the context and what you want to emphasize.
Note: A comma splice may be accepted only in more casual informal writing, where the semi-colon may appear too formal.
The students were happy, the teachers were too.
4. Do not use a comma within clauses, dividing between subject and predicate or separating between parts of compound subjects and compound predicates. In other words, do not use a comma before a coordinating conjunction to separate only two words, two phrases or two dependent clauses. In the following examples, no comma is needed as they are all short one-clause sentences with no series of more than two consecutive parts.
5. You should use a comma within a dependent clause if there are more than two parts within the compound subject or compound predicate
6. You should always use a comma within any type of clause, if there is a risk for ambiguity or confusion without using a comma. Therefore, good writers always edit their English writing and check for places where punctuation marks can clarify cases of double meaning.
Example: The students managed to complete only their math tests and the English papers and the biology project had to be delayed to next month.
Analysis: In the above example, not having a comma makes it unclear which assignments the students have already completed. Here are the two possible cases:
1) The students managed to complete only their math tests, and the English papers and the biology project had to be delayed to next month.
[The students completed only the math tests and the other two assignments were delayed].
2) The students managed to complete only their math tests and the English papers, and the biology project had to be delayed to next month.
[The students completed both the math tests and the English papers whereas one assignment was delayed)].
7. You should use a comma to separate an independent clause from an introductory element that comes before it and relates to the clause as a whole.
Because the final grades were high, the teacher canceled the planned quiz.
[introductory dependent clause]
Due to the high grades, the teacher canceled the planned quiz.
However, the teacher did not cancel handing in the final papers.
8. It is not necessary to use a comma when a part of the clause is moved to the beginning for emphasis (not according to usual clause word order).
At two o'clock the test began. Instead of The test began at two o'clock.
9. When the extra element follows the independent clause, you should separate them with a comma only if the element is not essential to the meaning of the independent clause. In such a case, the final element only adds extra information.
1)The students were ready to leave when the teacher arrived.
The students were ready to leave because the teacher arrived.
(final essential dependent clause)
[No comma is used because the meaning of the dependent clause is essential to the meaning of the independent clause.
Only when the teacher arrived, could the students, who were probably waiting for him, leave
2) The students were ready to leave, when the teacher arrived.
(final non-essential dependent clause)
A comma is used as the two clauses give two separate pieces of information.
The students were leaving and the teacher just happened to show up
10. If the following dependent clause expresses strong contrast, separate it with a comma, even though it is essential.
The students were very satisfied, although they had all received very low grades.
The five uses of the comma are:
Right or Wrong?
The students completed their math test on Monday, and the teachers handed in the grades on Thursday.
Right! The above sentence is composed of two independent clauses, each informing about two different people who did different things. A comma is needed before the coordinating conjunction, even though many English writers do not use a comma in such a case.
Right or wrong?
Last week's test says my best friend was the hardest ever.
It Depends! In the above example sentence my best friend is probably not a part of the main sentence Last week's test was the hardest ever and should be separated with commas. Without commas, the reader may get confused and think that the test "says" that the friend was the hardest, while it is the test that was the hardest. Says my best friend serves as a comment, known as a parenthetical element. The correct punctuation would therefore be:
Last week's test, says my best friend, was the hardest ever.
Right or wrong?
Dan's lifelong project is to be able to speak American English French German and Mandarin Chinese.
Wrong! In the above example sentence the language names come in a series whose elements should be separated with commas. In addition, not having a comma between "American" and "English" may make readers think that there is an independent language called "American," whereas it is considered only as an English language variety; or conclude that there is a French variety of German. The correct punctuation would therefore be:
Dan's lifelong project is to be able to speak American English, French, German, and Mandarin Chinese.
1. A quote is a text that brings the exact words of a speaker in direct discourse. A text that consists only of dialogue (plays, novels etc.) is punctuated according to regular punctuation rules. However, in a text that combines both dialogue and non-dialogue text, the quotations are separated from introductory words (e.g., said, stated, explained, claimed) with quotation marks, commas and other punctuation marks.
2. The punctuation mark that comes before the quote is left outside the opening quotation mark. The punctuation mark that comes after the quote is put inside the closing quotation marks. The quote itself starts with a capital letter. See the following examples for different positions of the introductory words.
The singer Madonna said, "We are living in a material world."
[introductory words before the quote]
"We are living in a material world," said the singer Madonna.
[introductory words after the quote]
"We are living," said the singer Madonna, "in a material world."
[introductory words within the quote]
The singer Madonna said, "We are living in a material world," and left the stage.
[introductory and non quote words before and after the quote]
1. A general stylistic convention in writing is that the more you can say in less words, the more elegant and polished the writing is. Elliptical constructions which omit words are one way of achieving such brevity in writing.
2. In the following examples, no comma is needed to indicate omitted words:
[Omission of that in object relative clauses]
Madonna looked angrily at Michael Jackson, and he at her.
3. In the following examples, a comma is needed to indicate omitted words. The sentence may be ungrammatical without it.
Madonna's first album sold only 2,000 copies but her second, 2,000,000.
[Omission of album sold, comma instead]
In spring Madonna's fans sent her 1,000 letters; in summer, 3,000; and in the fall, none.
[ellipsis of they sent her, notice the semi-colons dividing between the three independent clauses that contain commas]
4. Use commas to separate words repeated within a sentence to avoid confusion.
1. Use a comma to separate the date from the year, when written in American style.
December 30, 1975 [12.30.75 - US style]
2. Do not use a comma to separate any element of the date, when written in British style (also common around the world and in the U.S. army.)
30th of December 1975 [30.12.75 - UK style]
Note: As confusion may arise from having two styles of dates, you had better not write dates using numbers alone. Instead, write the month's name as a word and the date and year as numbers.
3. Use a comma to separate the day from the date.
Tuesday, December 30 [12.30.75 - US date]
4. In a full sentence, use a comma on both sides of the year in a full date.
Many people were waiting on December 30, 1975, to celebrate the birth of the writer of this punctuation guide.
5. Do not use a comma when writing only two date elements, namely, the month and the year, the month and the day, or the season and the year.
1. Use a comma as a thousands separator after every three digits in a number, counting from right to left.
87,950 people arrived to demonstrate in London against the government's decision. 1,850,400 signatures were collected nationwide in support of the protest.
(Note: In some countries a space is used instead of a comma, e.g. 87 9500)
2. A comma is optional with most four-digit numbers. Whatever option you choose, remember to be consistent in your writing.
3. Never use a comma in a four-digit year. Use a comma if the year has more than 4 digits.
In 1992 German zoologists discovered rare animal fossils from 35,000 BC.
4. Never use a comma in an address of four digits or more.
Beverly Hills 90210 was a very popular T.V. series.
5. Use a comma to separate related measurements written as words.
My son is five feet, four inches tall.
6. Use a comma to separate a scene from an act in a play.
act II, scene vi; or act 2, scene 4
7. Never use a comma in a page number of four digits or more.
For more information, see page 1378.
8. Use a comma to separate references to a page and line.
For more information, see page 1378, line 30.
9. Use a comma to separate two numbers that lie next to each other in a text.
In 1994, 3 of Madonna's songs reached the top ten in the music charts.
1. Use a comma to separate people's names and their academic degrees. Use a comma after the degree if other words follow it.
Dan Smith, MD, will speak after Rosanne Smith, PhD.
2. Do not use a comma when an indicator of birth order or succession follows a name.
Marthin Luther King Jr. Henry VIII.
3. Use a comma if you write a person's last name before the first name.
Smith, Dan, MD, will speak second.
4. Use a comma to separate between two place names in sequence, e.g. city and county/state/country. Add another comma after the place name if more words follow.
Dan Smith, MD, is coming from Houston, Texas, to speak at the conference.
5. When a complete address is part of a sentence, use a comma to separate all the items, except the county/state/country and the zip code.
Dan wrote to Clara Clausowitz, 1001 Rule Road, Commaville, England ETS432, for more information about comma usage in English.
6. Use a comma for the opening of an informal letter. Some instructors suggest a colon in formal business letters.
Dear Dave, [friendly, informal] Dear Mrs. Clausowitz: [business, formal]
7. Use a comma for the closing words of any letter, and a point for the closing sentence that precedes it.
Hope to hear from you soon. [closing sentence]
Yours, or Love, [informal closing words]
sincerely, or Best regards, [formal closing word]
The comma is a punctuation mark, mainly used to separate phrases within the same sentence. Commas can make written sentences easier to read, because they allow for slight pauses between ideas.
Commas can drastically change the meaning of a sentence. Take a look at the following examples:
In the first example, Mr. Smith is saying that Dave should be arrested. In the second example, Dave is saying that Mr. Smith should be arrested. The only difference between the two sentences is commas.
Just learn a few basic rules and you will be able to use commas effectively and correctly.
The comma separates the introduction from the rest of the sentence.
Use commas to separate a non-essential phrase or clause from the rest of the sentence. A clause is non-essential if it can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence or making the sentence incomplete.
Remember, if a clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence, it does not need commas.
A subordinate clause at the beginning of the sentence should be followed by a comma. If the subordinate clause is at the end of the sentence, a comma is not required.
There are many more rules for comma use, but the rules above will keep you from making the most common comma errors.
Inserting a comma after an introductory phrase is an excellent way to increase the clarity of a sentence. It is useful sometimes to imagine saying the sentence out loud, and imagine if a pause is needed after the first phrase.
Introductory phrases can include:
A comma is not needed if the introductory phrase is immediately followed by the verb it modifies.
Out of the trees flew a flock of birds; Walking directly toward her was her boss.
What is an Apostrophe?
An apostrophe is a punctuation mark that looks like this: ’ (sort of half of a quote)
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word apostrophe comes from the Greek apostrophes, meaning “turning away” (to one in particular). An apostrophe symbolizes letters that have been “turned away”, or discarded, in order to make a word shorter or easier to pronounce.
Using the apostrophe for indicating omissions in contracted words
Contractions - the shortening of two words by adding them together
This is a very common element of grammar, especially in spoken English. However, in formal writing it is better to use the longer version, or the original two words.
* You + are = you’re
* I + am = I’m
* Will + not = won’t
Apostrophes are also used to shorten the names of dates (decades):
* the 1960’s = the 60’s
Right or wrong?
The Apostrophes uses ar'ent always clear-cut.
Wrong! In the above example sentence the words (are not) should be joined together (contracted) into (aren't), as the letter o in not is dropped and replaced by an apostrophe which "glues" are and not together.
If you want to know more, read the punctuation rules for indicating omissions below.
If you are ready to read about other uses of the apostrophe, click here for the index.
1. When two words join together and a letter is dropped, an apostrophe is used to fill in for a dropped letter, as in the following examples:
1. am does not contract with not ( amn't is wrong!)
2. Do not confuse the following contractions with similar words:
- it's (contraction for it is, it has) with its (possessive determiner/pronoun, meaning belonging to it).
- they're (contraction for they are) with their (possessive determiner) and there (place).
- who's (contraction for who is) with whose (question word about possession).
- you're (contraction for you are) with your (possessive determiner).
It's a great piece of writing. Its style is very clear.
Who's the writer whose books are now best sellers.
3. The contraction o'clock is required for writing (replacing the archaic expression of the clock).
4. Use contractions less in formal writing contexts, such as serious argumentative essays, formal letters of complaint, business writing or academic journals. This is because such contexts require the full standard language style.
5. Use contractions with apostrophes more in informal writing contexts which simulate spoken language, such as letters to friends and postcards, or when writing dialogs. Since these contractions derive from users connecting words spoken at a fast pace, they are more common in these contexts, where they are accepted, as without them the writing may seem unnatural or even condescending.
6. Nevertheless, you should not overuse apostrophes even informally and write:
You shouldn't've said that.
Double apostrophe for (You should not have said that)
I'd let you do it.
Ambiguous usage (I'd) may be (I would) or (I had)
Right or wrong?
The childrens ball fell into the two neighbor's yard.
Wrong ! In the above example sentence "childrens" should be written with an apostrophe (children's), stating "of the children", meaning that the ball belongs to the children. In addition, as there are two neighbors as owners of the yard, (neighbor's) should express possession as (neighbors').
If you want to know more, read the punctuation rules for indicating possessives below.
Possession means that some "property" (a ball) belongs or is in close relationship to an "owner" (the children), which are usually described by nouns. Use the apostrophe to show what belongs to whom.
1. Add 's to singular nouns to show they are the "owners."
The author's books appeared in Mr. Smith's review article.
Note: If the singular owner already ends with s, you can either add 's or only an apostrophe. At WhiteSmoke, we prefer the first option but if you chose otherwise, you must be consistent with the option you choose
2. Add only an apostrophe to plural nouns to show they are the "owners."
The Williams' dog ate all the students' writing assignment.
Note: If the plural nouns does not end in s, add 's to show they are the owners.
The Children's dog ate the people's shoes.
3. Add 's to the last word in compound words and phrases:
4. Add 's to each "owner" to show that each of them owns a "property" separately.
Dan's and Sharon's writing assignments are the best in the class.
(Two different assignments written by two different people)
5. Add 's to the last "owner" in a group to show that the group owns a "property" jointly.
Dan and Sharon's writing assignment is the best in class.
(One assignment written by two people together).
1. The Apostrophe does not create possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, its, hers, ours, theirs).
We need two cars. Let's take ours and hers.
2. You may prefer using the preposition "of" instead of the apostrophe to show possession when the owner is described using a long phrase.
The new German writing instructor's books are best seller. Or
The Books of the new German writing instructor are best sellers.
The following nouns are possessive and do not require apostrophes:
yours his hers ours theirs whose
Its / It’s : WHAT is the Difference?!
The difference between its and it’s is a trap that even skilled writers fall into, time and time again.
Its = possessive ; Look at that bus – its windows are so dirty!
It’s = contraption ; it is or it has
A good tip to remember when to use the apostrophe and when not to, with its/it’s: When you’re trying to use the possessive (to say that someone or something owns something else), do NOT use the apostrophe – just like there is no apostrophe in yours, his, hers, etc. And the apostrophe in it’s stands for the letters that are missing (since apostrophes usually stand for letters “turned away”, like we read at the top of this article).
Right or wrong?
The student's had a variety of grades but the most were 70s or 90s.
Right and Wrong! In the above example sentence the plural word (student's) does not require an apostrophe as plurals normally do not take an apostrophe. The plurals of numbers, however, can be written with an apostrophe or without.
If you want to know more, read the punctuation rules for indicating plurals below.
Even though the apostrophe is not used to make plural nouns in English, it is still used to pluralize the following elements:
1. Plural of letters meant as letters, both in upper case and in lower case.
Mississippi has lots of S's in it. (Option: underline the letter)
Mississippi has lots of s's in it.
2. Plural of numbers to avoid ambiguity.
The binary system uses 0's and 1's. (Otherwise could look like Os and Is).
3. In the following cases, do not use an apostrophe, unless you believe the reader may not find your writing clear:
-Plurals of letters meant as words
The students got all Cs in their writing assignments.
(C is here a word for grade level)
-Plurals of words meant as words
No ifs or buts! (No apostrophes)
The do's and the don'ts of apostrophe usage. (Without apostrophes may seem unclear)
-Plural of numbers
This airliner only uses 747s.
-Plural of years
Berlin had a lively atmosphere during the 1920s.
-Plurals of symbols
What do all these @s mean?
Punctuation marks that are not placed where they should be give a negative impression of the writer as much as bad grammar does. When proofreading your work, an online punctuation checker will be helpful. It will help you to avoid committing the most common punctuation mistakes people make, three of which are given here:
Sentence fragments are not complete sentences but they can be made a part of sentences. You should avoid using them, as such. For example:
I would go there. If I could.
There should be no period before the sentence fragment “if I could”. Instead, the fragment should be made part of the sentence, so that it reads like this:
I would go there if I could.
The comma splice joins two independent clauses with a comma. Below is an example.
I saw the itinerary, I want to join.
In this sentence, a comma connects two independent clauses. To correct this, you can either put a period after the first independent clause or add a conjunction after the comma.
I saw the itinerary. I want to join.
I saw the itinerary, and I want to join.
Another common mistake is adding apostrophes to plural nouns. Below are examples.
The orange’s are really sweet.
The kid’s will be performing in a musical.
The apostrophes in these examples should be omitted.
There you have it: three of the most common punctuation mistakes you should watch out for. Be mindful of sentence fragments, the comma splice, and apostrophes. As previously mentioned, WhiteSmoke's grammar checker will also help clean up your punctuation errors, helping you spot things that you might otherwise miss. In any event, editing with your eyes or editing with WhiteSmoke Writer, correcting errors of punctuation is important for the quality of your text.
Different punctuation marks are used to end different kinds of sentences. How do you know which ones to use? Check out these simple tips on how to end your sentences. Here are three basic punctuation marks that are used at the end of a sentence.
The period is used at the end of a declarative sentence, which is a sentence that states an idea. Below are examples:
A period is also used to end an imperative sentence that does not convey excitement or urgency. See the following examples:
The question mark, as its name suggests, is used to end a question. This is shown in the following examples:
The exclamation point is used at the end of an exclamatory sentence or a sentence that expresses strong feelings, such as excitement and urgency. Check out these examples:
There you have it: the three basic punctuation marks that are used to end different kinds of sentences. Now, you have an idea of how to use a period, a question mark, and an exclamation point to end a sentence. If you are unsure of which punctuation to use, you can always consult WhiteSmoke's online punctuation checker. A punctuation checker is a practical tool that anyone who wishes to learn English should have.
Out of the many important elements of writing, punctuation may be the most essential. Punctuation helps direct us through written language with its system of symbols and the rules for using them. Correct usage of punctuation symbols like commas and periods, as well as spaces, capital letters and many other conventions, help the reader avoid confusion and understand more clearly what the writer has intended. Punctuation also affects the rhythm of how a sentence is read, as well as the actual meaning of the writing.
To really understand how important proper punctuation is, look at the following simple sentence:
I did it.
With the period at the end, it is a basic statement of fact.
If we change the period to an exclamation point - I did it ! - there is a distinct sense of pride from accomplishing something.
And with a question mark at the end - I did it ? - the writer expresses wonderment and disbelief in having done something.
These minute changes in punctuation alter the entire tone and meaning of the basic sentence. And these three punctuation marks - the period, exclamation point, and question mark - exemplify only a tiny part of the vast amount of power that lies in correct punctuation.
Because of the importance of English punctuation, you need a trustworthy resource for proofreading your valuable work. WhiteSmoke is the comprehensive resource to trust for all of your writing needs. In addition to a punctuation check, WhiteSmoke contains a smart algorithm that assesses your entire text instantly. From this assessment and WhiteSmoke's corrections, you will have writing that follows grammar rules, has correct spelling, and even enrichments of synonyms and descriptive adjectives and adverbs. All of this in one online writing software WhiteSmoke, the best buy with your money.