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English Notes » Punctuation

Punctuation Punctuation

Notes over Comma Usage


§  Use commas to separate items in a series.



o   The Lady Braves are talented, respected, and special.

o   The Braves raced down the court, defended their goal, and made every basket.


§  Use a comma to separate the independent clauses of a compound sentence if the clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction – for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so



o   Bobby hit the ball into left field and raced to first base.

o   (No comma is needed because there’s not two complete sentences.)


o   Bobby hit the ball into left field, and then he raced to first base.

o   (A comma is needed because there’s two complete sentences.)


§  Use a comma after some introductory elements.


o   Interjections that are not expressing strong emotion

            Example: Well, I think we’ll have tacos for dinner tonight.


o   Prepositional phrases of four or more words OR two or more introductory prepositional phrases OR a prepositional phrase giving time or place.

            Example: After the homecoming pep rally, we all went to Pizza Hut.

            Example: In the beginning of the movie, Sally did not like Harry.

            Example: In 1954, a gallon of gasoline cost 22 cents!




o   Participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence

            Example: Sitting in the sun by the pond, the toad lazily caught insects.


o   An adverb clause at the beginning of a sentence

            Example: Because you are so smart, you should do well on your test.


§  Use commas to separate elements in dates and addresses.


o   Examples:


§  On December 25, 1777, Captain Cook landed on Christmas Island.

§  Write to the McCord Company, 357 Jefferson Street, Springfield, Ilinois 62703, for more information


§  Use commas to set off parenthetical expressions


o   Common parenthetical expressions: after all, at any rate, by the way, consequently, however, for example, for instance, generally speaking, I believe (guess, hope, know), in fact, in my opinion, of course, on the contrary, on the other hand, moreover, nevertheless, to tell the truth (NOTE: Generally avoid using parenthetical expressions in your writing but if you DO use them, please use commas to separate them from the rest of your sentence.)


§  Use commas to set off nouns of direct address.

            Example: Mom, what’s for dinner?


§  Use commas to set off most appositives and their modifiers. Don’t use commas if the appositive is simply a proper noun.



o   Mr. Lawrence, a graduate of Texas A&M, is our superintendent.

o   Have you ever been to Austin, the capital of Texas?

o   My brother Robert lives in Austin.


§  Use a comma in elements of a letter: after the salutation and the closing


§  Use a comma to separate a direct quote from the speaker tag.



o   Mom said, “Please clean your room before playing tennis.”

o   “May I please,” Monica replied, “wait until I get back?”

o   “If you clean it without complaint, then this is fine,” Mom agreed.


Punctuation Notes over End Punctuation,

Semi-Colons, Colons, Abbreviations, and Hyphens


End Punctuation:


  • Place a period after a statement, after an opinion, and after a command or request in a normal tone of voice.
  • Place a question mark after a sentence that asks a question.
  • Place an exclamation point after a sentence that expresses strong feeling and after a command or request that expresses great excitement.




  • Titles with names:                     Mr.                   Mrs.                  Rev.                 Sgt.                  Jr.

Ms.                   Dr.                    Gen.                 Lt.                    Sr.


§  Times with numbers:      A.M.                 P.M.                 B.C.                 A.D.


  • Miscellaneous:                          Mon.                 Sept.                in.                     St.                    qt.

Inc.                   etc.


Note: If a sentence ends with an abbreviation, only one period is used. It serves as the period for the abbreviation and as the end mark for the sentence.




  • Use a semi-colon between the clauses of a compound sentence that are not joined by a conjunction.
  • Use a semi-colon between clauses in a compound sentence that are joined by certain transitional words. (Examples of transitional words: for example, for instance, however, otherwise, therefore, instead, nevertheless, consequently)



  • Use a colon before a list of items at the send of a sentence but NEVER separate a verb from its direct object or a preposition from its object of the preposition.

                        Correct: Last summer I visited the following countries: England, Italy, and France.

                        Incorrect: Last summer I visited: England, Italy, and France.




§  Use a hyphen to divide a word at the end of a line to keep the right margin even.

1)       Divide words only between syllables

2)       Never divide a one-syllable word.

3)       Do not divide a word after the first letter OR have only one letter on the next line.


  • Use a hyphen when writing out the numbers twenty-one to ninety-nine.
  • Use a hyphen when writing out a fraction that is used as an adjective.
  • Use a hyphen with some compound nouns. (Ex: son-in-lawn, baby-sitter)



Notes over Parenthesis, Brackets, and Ellipses



I.                    Parenthesis


A.     Use parenthesis to see off explanations or other information that is loosely related to the rest of the sentence.


Example: Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) led the United States during the Civil War.


B.     A parenthetical sentence within another sentence should not begin with a capital letter unless the parenthetical sentence begins with a word that should be capitalized.


Example: We jumped into the pool (the water was freezing) and climbed out immediately.


C.     A parenthetical sentence within another sentence may end with a question mark or exclamation mark if applicable, but it should not end with a period.


Example: The class trip (are you going?) is planned for the same day as the football game.


II.                  Brackets


A.     Use brackets to enclose an explanation located within a quotation to show that the explanation is not part of the original quotation.


Example: “We [the faculty of Shiner High School] are excited to begin a new school year.”


B.     Use brackets to enclose an explanation that is located within parenthetical citation.


Example: John Adams (the second president of the United States [1797-1801] was defeated for reelection by Thomas Jefferson.



III.                Ellipsis


A.     Use an ellipsis to show where words have been omitted from a quoted passage. Including an ellipsis shows the reader that the writer has chosen to omit some information.


B.     Ellipses are commonly used in advertising for movies and other media. When you see an ellipsis in an ad, think about what might have been omitted. You might want to find the original review because the ad might be giving a different impression from what the reviewed intended.


C.     Use an ellipsis to mark a pause in a dialogue or speech.


D.     It is not necessary to use an ellipsis to show an omission at the beginning of material you are quoting. However, if you choose to omit any words WITHIN material you quote, you must use an ellipsis to show where information has been omitted.


E.     Use an ellipsis to show an omission, pause, or interruption in the middle of a sentence.


F.     Use an ellipsis and an end mark to show an omission or a pause at the end of a sentence.



Punctuating Dialogue


Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people. The words that tell who is speaking are called the speech (or dialogue or speaker’s) tag. When you write dialogue and direct quotations, follow these rules.


Rule 1: Use quotation marks before and after a person’s exact words. If the words are a statement or a command, put the period inside the closing quotation mark.

            Mom said, “Please clean your room.”


Rule 2: Place a question mark or an exclamation point insidfe the quotation marks if the question or exclamation is part of the quotation. Place the punctuation mark outside if the entire statement is a question or exclamation.

            “How much laundry do I need to do?” asked Kellen.

            I can’t believe Mom said, “Twenty-five loads”!


Rule 3: Use a comma to set off the speaker’s tag from the rest of the sentence. Put a comma inside the quotation marks.

            “You may watch a movie when you’ve completed the laundry,” Mom offered.


Rule 4: Use quotation marks around each part of a divided quotation. If a speaker’s tag interrupts a quoted sentence, begin the second part with a lowercase letter. If the second part of a divided quotation is a complete sentence, begin the second part with a capital letter.

            “I’m scared,” Ava moaned, “to stay home by myself after midnight.”

            “It’s fine.” Mom whispered. “Grandma will be spending the night with you.”


Rule 5: Start a new paragraph every time the speaker changes. Note that not every quoted sentence contains a speaker tag.      



Source for Punctuating Dialogue is Sadlier Grammar for Writing.

Quotation Marks, Underlining, and Italics



I.                    Quotation Marks


A.     Use quotation marks at the beginning and the end of a direct quotation.


B.     When only a word or phrase is quoted, use a lowercase letter if the quoted words do not begin the sentence.

      Thomas Edison described genius as “one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent       perspiration.


C.     When a quotation is made up of more than one sentence, place quotation marks only at the beginning and at the end of the entire quotation.


D.     Use quotation makrs to enclose the titles of short works such as poems, short stories, songs, articles, book chapters, and episodes of television programs.



II.                  Italics/Underlining: In the following situations, you will use italics if typing and underlining if writing by hand. Do not use both at the same time.


A.     Use italics for the titles of longer works, such as books, magazines, newspapers, plays, movies, and television programs.


B.     Use italics for the names of works of art, ships, planes, trains, and spacecraft.


C.     Use italics when using words, letters and numbers that are referring to themselves.

                        I can never remember how to spell the word separate.





I.                    Use an apostrophe plus an S when making a noun possessive.

The boys’ mom was baking them a cake.


II.                  Use an apostrophe to form a contraction, a shortened version of a word, numeral, or group of words.


III.                Use an apostrophe to form the plural of letters, words, numbers, and some symbols when they’re referring to themselves.


      She has several c’s in her name.

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