PUNCTUATION IN A NUTSHELL
Do you, like so many other people, have trouble remembering which punctuation goes where. If you do, then this collection of punctuation marks with examples should help you.
Use a period
1. At the end of a sentence:
Tomorrow we're going to get organized.
Put these letters in the circular file.
2. Following abbreviations:`
Mr. Mrs. Bldg., A.M./P.M.
3. After an indirect question or a quotation that is actually a polite request and does not require a reply:
I asked him when his office closed.
Will you please enclose a check for the amount due.
4. After numbers or letters in a listing or outline:
Use a question mark:
To indicate a direct query:
Have we received his order yet?
Did the package arrive today?
Use an exclamation point
To indicate surprise, disbelief, or other strong emotions. Use only one.
You never answered his E-mail message!
Oh! I'd forgotten about all about it.
Use a colon
1. To introduce such matter as an amplification, formal statement, list, or long quotation:
Take my advice: don't do it.
The parts of an E-mail message are: (1) subject line; (2) salutation; (3) message; (4) signature.
A new policy has been adopted: salesmen are required to send in their expense reports on the first day of each month.
I quote from his message: "I've used your floppy disks for many years and always found them satisfactory."
2. After a salutation of a letter or of a speaker addressing an audience:
Gentlemen: Dear Ms. Brown: Dear Sir:
3. In expressing time, to separate hours from minutes:
His flight departs at 6:38 P.M.
4. In expressing proportion:
The compression ratio of this engine is 8:1.
Use a semicolon
1.To separate clauses of a compound sentence which aren't connected by a conjunction:
The secretary gave him the contract; he read and signed it.
2. Between clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, moreover, thus, yet):
In general, I'm in favor of doing what you suggest; however, one of your proposals disturbs me.
3.To separate phrases and clauses containing other punctuation:
Miss Rodriquez, Mr. Harold's secretary, is intelligent, attractive, and very competent; but she's always powdering her nose.
We have offices in San Francisco, California; Macon, Georgia; Albany, New York; Columbus, Mississippi; and Lansing, Michigan.
Use a comma
1. To separate words, phrases, or short clauses in a series:
The office manager ordered a new desk, two computers, and a printer.
Go into your office, sit down at your desk, and don't come out until you've written that letter!
2. Between independent coordinated clauses joined by a conjunction:
This order must be filled this morning, and it should be delivered by messenger.
3. To set off clauses and phrases not essential to the main thought of the sentence:
Mr. Allen, who has been a teacher for 40 years, will retire this June.
The new company logo, designed especially for our firm's 50th anniversary, will be used beginning May 1.
4. To set off words or phrases in opposition or in contrast:
George Manning, the lawyer from Ohio, will try the casein court next week.
5. Between coordinate adjectives or adverbs in a series:
Can you write an interesting, informative article?
6. After an introductory modifying phrase or clause:
When she walked into the room, everyone stood up to greet her.
7. To set off words or direct addresses:
The solution, Marie, is never to give him credit.
8. To set off the year in dates:
On May 14, 2001, Charles Smith opened a small office on Main Street.
9. To separate the parts of an address:
Please send this package to Richard Haynes, 655 Terrace Street, Chicago, IL.
10. To set off parenthetical words, phrases, or clauses:
The message, you know, wasn't delivered until Noon.
This book, in my opinion, is the best on the subject.
11. To set off a short quotation:
She said, "Sign those letters for me, " and left the office.
12. To indicate an omission:
Jim sold three laptop computers this week: Tom, two.
13. To set off such designations as Jr., Sr., Esq., Ph.D.:
Thomas Walton, Jr., has taken over as president of his father's firm.
Use quotation marks
1. To enclose words of direct quotation:
"What do you think of his approach?" she asked.
2. Make sure to put quotation marks after the quote's punctuation.
"We've been at the top of our industry for the last three years," said John Harris.
Use an apostrophe
1. To indicate the omission of a letter or letters in a contraction:
Don't you think that's a good idea?
2. Before the "s" in forming the possessive of a singular noun; Before the "s" in forming the possessive of a plural noun not ending in "s"; after the "s" in forming the possessive of a plural noun ending in "s":
The man's hat The ladies' hats The men's hats
A dash is used
1. To indicate a sudden interruption in thought:
Miss Meg Ryan--her address is in my computer address book--should receive a copy of this E-mail.
2. Instead of commas, if the meaning is thus made clearer:
The parts of a letter--inside address, date, salutation, etc.--must always be included.
Parentheses are used to set off words, phrases, and clauses, which aren't essential to the main statement, or to indicate a greater interruption in thought than would be indicated commas or dashes:
The Smithville (NJ) K-MART is one of our new customers.
Used like parentheses but only within quotations:
"We aren't in the business of saying that [product] is better than this one," said Mike Hagan.
Use ellipses (. . .) only to indicate material left out of a quotation."
"Then . . . we find some that fit the grid," said Harry Walsh.
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