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PUNCTUATION HANDOUT

Developed from:

Lunsford, Andrea, and Robert Connors. (1999). Easy writer: A pocket guide. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s.

Use COMMAS to:

Set off introductory elements;

Separate clauses in compound sentences;

Set off nonrestrictive elements,

o

Adjective and adverb clauses,

o

Participial and prepositional phrases, and

o

Appositives (noun phrases);

Separate items in a series,

Set off parenthetical and transitional expressions,

Set off contrasting elements, interjections, direct address, and a tag question,

Set off parts of dates and addresses, and

Set off quotations.

Do not use COMMAS:

Around restrictive elements,

Between subjects and verbs, verbs and objects or complements, and propositions and objects,

In compound constructions, or

Before the first or after the last item in a series.

Use SEMICOLONS to:

Link independent clauses,

Link independent clauses joined by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases, and

Separate items in a series containing other punctuation.

Do not use a SEMICOLON to separate an independent clause from a dependent clause or phrase.

Use PERIODS to:

Use COLONS:

To introduce

o

an explanation,

o

an example,

o

an appositive,

o

a series,

o

a list, and

o

a quotation;

after salutations: in formal letters;

with numbers indicating hours, minutes, and seconds;

with ratios;

with biblical chapters and verses;

with titles and subtitles; and

in bibliographic entries.

Do not use COLONS:

Between a verb and its object or complement,

Between a preposition and its object, or

After such expressions as such as, especially, and including.

Use QUESTION MARKS to close sentences that ask direct questions.

Use EXCLAMATION POINTS to show surprise or strong emotion.

Use APOSTROPHES to:

Signal possessive case,

Signal contractions and omissions, or

Form some plurals.

Use PARENTHESES to;

Enclose material that is of minor or secondary importance to the sentence, and

Close sentences that

Enclose textual citations and numbers or

o

Make statements,

letters in a list.

o

Give mild commands, and

o

Make polite requests;

Close indirect questions; and

To write most abbreviations.

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Use QUOTATION MARKS to:

Signal direct quotation,

Enclose titles or short works and definitions, and

With other punctuation know that:

o

Periods and commas go inside closing quotation marks, and

o

Question marks, exclamation points, and dashes go inside if the are part of the quoted material, outside if they are not.

Do not use QUOTATION MARKS for:

Indirect quotations,

Just to add emphasis to particular words, or

Around slang or colloquial language.

Use BRACKETS to:

Enclose parenthetical elements in material that is itself within parentheses,

Enclose explanatory words or comments that you are inserting into a quotation, and

Tell the reader that the person being quoted made a mistake: “[sic]”.

Use DASHES to:

Insert a comment or to highlight material in a sentence (pair of dashes),

Emphasize material at the end of a sentence,

Mark a sudden change in tone,

Indicate hesitation in speech, and

Introduce a summary or explanation.

Use ELLIPSES to indicate that you have omitted something from a quoted passage.

Use HYPHENS:

In compound nouns and verbs,

In compound adjectives,

In fractions and numbers,

With prefixes and suffixes, and

For word division.

Use ITALICS for:

Titles;

Words, letters, and numbers used as terms;

Non-English words;

Aircraft, spacecraft, ships, and trains; and

Emphasis.

Use CAPITAL LETTERS on:

The first word of a sentence,

Proper nouns and proper adjectives,

Titles before a proper name,

Titles of works,

Compass directions (when referring to a specific location), and

Family relationships (only if the word is used as part of a name or as a substitute for the name).

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