01.02.2016 |

Episode #4 of the course “The basics of English writing” by Sarah Stanley


Punctuation is relatively straightforward. This lesson lists the most common punctuation marks, explains how to use them, and gives examples.

Brackets ( [ ] ) → Add your own words to clarify part of a quotation: The writer also said that “[she] will be traveling to Traverse City, [Michigan] as part of the tour.”

Colon ( : ) → Introduce a list: The following artists will be shown: Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso.

Introduce a statement that expands upon the clause before the colon: And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

Comma ( , ) → Denote a break within a sentence or direct address of a person or group: Please don’t stop the music, Rihanna.

Separate any of the following:

• Two or more adjectives: Michigan is a cold, gray place.
• Items in a list: I enjoy running, skiing, weightlifting, and eating.
• The name of a city from the name of a state: I live in Chicago, Illinois.
• Two independent clauses: The waiter still hasn’t taken our order, and the show starts in five minutes.
• Direct quotations: Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

Em Dash ( — ) → Make a brief interruption within a sentence or a parenthetical phrase: Johnny asked me—with a straight face, I might add—if he could borrow the car for the weekend.

Double Quotation ( “ ) → Enclose a direct quotation: “What are you doing?” she asked me.

Exclamation Point ( ! ) → End a sentence and denote excitement or emphasis: Stop what you’re doing and dance!

Hyphen ( – ) → Add a prefix: Trans-Atlantic flights are costly.

Create compound words: Spider-Man can be so whiny.

Write numbers as words: Next week I’ll turn twenty-nine for the eighth time.

Parentheses ( () ) Indicate clarification: Please bring home some real butter (as opposed to margarine).

Indicate an afterthought or personal commentary: Anyone can edit Wikipedia (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Period ( . ) →  End a sentence: The sentence has ended.

Question Mark (?) → End a sentence and denote inquiry: Why are you wearing a tutu in court?  

Semicolon ( ; ) → Separate two related but independent clauses: I don’t understand why Thor is driving; he lost his license in a bet.

Separate a series of items that already contain commas:

For our wedding colors, I chose white, the color of innocence; red, the color of passion; and yellow, the color of lemons.
I have lived in Detroit, Michigan; Paris, France; and Sydney, Australia.

Apostrophe ( ’ ) → Denote possession: Did you take Cleopatra’s snake?

Denote a contraction: It’s just odd that no one will confess to microwaving my vase.

Single Quotation ( ‘ ) → Denote a quotation within a quotation: “So then he says, ‘Look ma, no hands!’ like an idiot.” 

Sources: 12


Recommended book

“Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss


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