Punctuation

From Teflpedia

Punctuation refers to the marks, such as full stops/periods, commas, and brackets, used in writing to separate sentences and their elements in order to clarify meaning. The word also refers to the use of such marks.[1] There are certain minor differences in use between American English(AmE) and British English(BrE).

Sentences[edit]

A sentence is an expression representing distinct and differentiated concepts, and combined to form a meaningful statement, question, request or command.

Paragraphs[edit]

A paragraph is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea. A paragraph will consist of one or more sentences. The start of a paragraph is indicated by beginning on a new line. Sometimes the first line is indented. Speech is usually divided into paragraphs with each person's contribution forming a new paragraph.

Capital letters[edit]

  1. Despite modern graphic designers and e-mail users, proper nouns and adjectives referring to nationalities, regions, languages, etc. always have an initial capital letter: She’s Spanish; French literature; Japan; an English-Spanish dictionary;
  2. Likewise, days of the week and months and public holidays always have initial capital letter: Monday; April; Christmas; Easter; etc.;
    But not usually seasons: summer, autumn, winter, spring;
(When personified any noun may be capitalised: In all her glory Spring turned the trees to green.)
  1. The first person singular subject pronounI – is the only pronoun that is, for historical reasons [2], always capitalised (however, all sentences begin with a capital letter of course):
    "I went to the cinema last night."
    "They came with me to the cinema last night."
    "Although he went to the cinema, I didn't go with him."
Note: When referring to a particular deity or similar, be it God, Allah, Buddha etc. pronouns are always capitalised, but not when gods or deities in general are the subject.

The most important punctuation marks[edit]

To be grammatically correct a sentence must end with a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.

full stopBrE or periodAmE = .[edit]

  1. Ends a sentence.
  2. Used as a "decimal point" in English.
    21.9 = twenty-one point nine

question mark = ?[edit]

Replaces the full stop at the end of a question; usually accompanied by a rising inflexion towards the end of the sentence.
A new sentence after a question mark begins with a capital letter:
What can they do about it? Nothing.

exclamation mark = ![edit]

(very occasionally referred to as “bang” or “shriek”)
Replaces the full stop at the end of an exclamation.
A new sentence after an exclamation mark begins with a capital letter:
What did you say?; I can’t believe it!

comma = ,[edit]

Commas are used to reflect a pause in speech:

  1. For simple lists:
    You have to buy eggs, milk, tea and bread;
  2. For adjectives in predicative information:
    It is a very long, very boring film;
    (but not for adjectives that give different information:
    They’ve bought a lovely old cottage in the country);
  3. When we use words or expressions to interrupt a normal sentence:
    The Chairman, however, disagreed;
  4. For large numbers – to separate into groups of three figures after thousands:
    23,432,112; twenty-three million, four hundred and thirty-two thousand, one hundred and twelve
  5. In non-defining relative clauses:
    Candide, which was published when Voltaire was 64, was an immediate best-seller.

colon = :[edit]

  1. Often used before explanations:
    I didn’t do my homework: I didn’t have time;
  2. For quoting direct speech, as in a play:
    Hamlet: To be or ...;
  3. For introducing lists:
    Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, ...;

semicolon = ;[edit]

  1. Often used to separate items on lists, especially when use of commas could cause confusion:
    There are several ministries involved, including those of Finance; Food, Fisheries and Farming; Health and so on.
  2. They are sometimes used instead of full stops where two sentences are closely connected in meaning:
    It’s a good idea; let’s hope it works.

hyphen = -[edit]

  1. Used to join words in phrases:
    an Anglo-American agreement (see Compound adjective); the London-Paris flight; my ex-husband;
  2. Modern use is not always clear and it is possible to find the following three variations:
    bookshop, book-shop, book shop (see Compound noun).
    While the above example is clear, be careful with the following examples: English-language pundits vs English language pundits.[3]
    If in doubt, it's best to write the words without a hyphen.
  3. For ordinal and cardinal numbers over twenty:
    twenty-one; the twenty-first; ninety-nine; the ninety-ninth
  4. In other cases, usage depends on whether it's an adjective or adverb: an online dictionary vs. I bought it on-line.

dash = —[edit]

  1. Used in similar ways as colons, semi-colons or brackets.
  2. Also to introduce something surprising or unexpected:
    We’ll be in time—at least, I hope so;

apostrophe = ’[edit]

Main article: Apostrophe
  1. Used to show that letters are missing in contractions:
    can’t = cannot; it’s = it is/it has; I’d = I would/I had;
  2. Used before or after the possessive 's (singular or plural):
    John’s children; Murphy’s Law; my parents’ house;
  3. For some special plurals:
    How many p’s are there in “happy”?; “the 1960’s” (or “the 1960s”);

Straight apostrophe was used in typewriters and for historical reasons is present in modern day computers: '

Very often instead of the primary stress mark a straight apostrophe is used: /rɪ'pleɪs/ instead of /rɪˈpleɪs/.

quotation marks = " or ' or “ and ” or ‘ and ’[edit]

(also inverted commasBrE)

Always used in pairs but see apostrophe above.

Two forms exist: single: ' and double: ". They are generally interchangeable but should be consistently used within a text.

Besides, there are typographical quotes (also called curly quotes) that come in pairs: single: and and double: and .

Straight quotes ' and " were invented for typewriters and currently are used only for convenience (i.e. laziness) in old fashioned software (such as the one used in wiki pages).

  1. They are used to quote direct speech:
    "I'm coming" he said.
  2. For quotations of external text:
    According to Einstein, "God doesn't play dice with the universe".
  3. For quotations inside quotations, we use double quotation marks inside single, or single inside double:
    The corporal replied: "The sergeant said 'Jump', so I asked 'How high?'"
  4. Also around words which are used in special ways – titles, for example, or to give them special meanings or emphasis:
    His following book was “Animal Farm”; People sometimes confuse the word “efficient” with “effective”;

Typographical quotes are called opening ( or ) and closing ( or ).

They can also be used as "scare quotes", that is, they are used to distance the writer from the original word or phrase, or to show contempt.[4] For example He is talking with his “girfriend” may mean we think he is lying and doesn't have a girlfriend.

bracketsBrE or parentheses = (...)[edit]

Brackets are used to add separate information (or a comment) from the rest of the sentence.

square brackets = [...][edit]

Square brackets are used to insert additional information not originally presented: e.g. explanations, corrections, or to show that an error was made (see below).
Square brackets are used to indicate phonetic pronunciation (narrow notation). For example, shoulder is pronounced [ˈʃəʊldə] in Received Pronunciation and [ˈʃoʊldɚ] in General American.
Note: the Latin adverb sic ("thus"; in full: sic erat scriptum, "thus was it written"), used within a quotation to note verbatim quotation of a mistake of the original, is always enclosed in square brackets immediately after the error:
The leaflet said: “Its [sic] one of Shakespeare’s better-known plays.”

curly brackets or bracesAmE = {...}[edit]

Curly brackets are used to show the relation of one line or groups of lines to another group of lines.

ellipsis = …[edit]

  1. An ellipsis (plural: ellipses) is a set of three full stops or periods used to indicate that a word or expression has been omitted or that a comment or question has "tailed off":
    “Are you going to go?” – “If we have to … .”;
  2. Ellipses are also used to indicate that a quotation is part of a longer item:
    "… an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, …" Douglas Adams

Computers have a special character for ellipsis (called horizontal ellipsis) and writen as … in HTML. It saves two characters in Twitter.

asterisk = *; dagger = †; double dagger = ‡[edit]

Symbols commonly used to refer to a footnote or reference
The first note on a page is usually the asterisk, the second the dagger and the third the double dagger. The relevant footnote is shown by the same symbol in front of the note below the text of the page.
They are usually superscripted (smaller and raised above the text baseline: *; ; ).
If there are many such notes, they are usually replaced by superscripted numbers, which may lead to notes at the foot of the page, the end of the chapter or the end of the volume.

Daggers in the Times font have more detail: † ‡

slash = /[edit]

(also "forward slash" to differentiate from "\" which is not used in text)
Avoid joining two words by a slash. It suggests that the two are related, but does not specify how. It is often also unclear how the construct would be read aloud. Replace with clearer wording.
An example:
The parent/instructor must be present at all times.
Must both be present? (Then write the parent and the instructor.)
Must at least one be present? (Then write the parent or the instructor.)
Are they the same person? (Use a hyphen: the parent-instructor.)
An unspaced slash may be used:
  • to indicate phonemic pronunciations (ribald is pronounced /ˈrɪbəld/)
  • to separate the numerator and denominator in a fraction (7/8)
A spaced slash may be used:
  • to separate run-in lines when quoting poetry or song (To be or not to be: that is the question: / Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune).

bullet = •[edit]

Bullet points are used to highlight important information as a short list within a document. They are especially common in documents such as PowerPoint presentations. In the absence of any fixed rules about how to use them,[5] here are some guidelines:

  • The sentence introducing the bullet points should end with a colon.
  • If the text that follows the bullet point is not a proper sentence, it doesn’t need to begin with a capital letter and it shouldn’t end with a full stop.
  • A bullet point consisting of a complete sentence should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop, but is not absolutely essential.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]