What are some of your punctuation questions when you’re writing? Do several continually frustrate you because you can’t remember what’s correct? You’re not alone. We all see poor punctuation in emails, reports, newspapers, documents and even briefs, but we’re also in a quandary as to what’s right.
To DeeTox poor punctuation, refresh your memory with this quick reference guide and refer to it or your office reference guide when you have questions. It’s 100 times more professional to get it right than to get it out too quickly.
- Separating main elements
The team worked on budget issues and end-of-month figures, and the year-end data had to wait.
- Separating items in a series
The team had focus, energy, and commitment to the results.
- Setting apart dialogue or quotations
My manager said, “Congratulations on the new client.”
- Separating introductory phrases
Steve’s cousin, the man in the dark glasses, just moved to town.
- Setting off parenthetical elements (Note the different meanings.)
Sally, thought Emily, needs a haircut.
Sally thought Emily needs a haircut.
Use to separate two independent clauses.
My daughter needs braces; I’m saving money for them.
(Could also write as two sentences, or link them with a conjunction.)
To separate items already separated with a comma
She went to Paris, TX; Lebanon, PA; and Rome, GA
The new officers are Max Nice, president; Nice Max, vice
president; Maxine Neet, treasurer.
Use a semicolo before a transitional expression: However, Therefore, Furthermore, Nevertheless
The lights went out; therefore, we have to study by flashlight.
Monday was a holiday; however, I went to the office.
Use a colon for lists.
Pick up the following: pencils, paper, and ink cartridges.
You must have these items for the exam:
* Release form
After a formal salutation – even in e-mails.
Dear Mr. Clear:
Dear Committee members:
To indicate importance and/or “note what follows.”
We live in a Democracy: Get out and vote!
I won’t be able to make the meeting
You’re going to be just fine.
It’s a lovely day.
Who’s babysitting tonight?*
*Mind the confusion with the possessive whose
Add an ’S for singular possessives
She’ll be late for her doctor’s appointment.
The men’s (women’s/children’s) softball game is delayed.
Mark’s health is improving.
Add an S’ for plural nouns ending in S
The professor canceled the students’ classes.
Most sisters’ children are all in college.
The reports’ covers were ruined in the rain.
Mr. Jones’ car is for sale.
The quizzes’ answers are in the back.
Singular names that end in y, change to ies and add S’.
The lady’s dress The ladies’ store
Plurals add ES to the singular, then an ’.
The Thomases’ reunion was incredible.
The actresses’ contract was rejected.
Enclose someone’s exact words.
She asked, “Where do I go from here?”
Enclose personal words, thoughts or ideas.
Marshall’s attitude is definitely, “live and let live.”
Where did you get those “rags”?
Periods and commas, always stay inside the quotation marks.
Please check off the last button, “undecided.”
“I can’t,” said Tim, “I have to file my taxes.”
Colons and semicolons, always stay outside the quotation marks.
At 9 a.m. you said, “The meeting is delayed”; it still hasn’t been rescheduled and it’s 2 p.m.
These are a few of the things she “demanded”: diet soda, sugar-free lemon drops, and sparkling water.
Question marks and exclamation points are fickle.
These punctuation marks stay inside ONLY when
it’s a direct quotation.
He asked, “When is the next movie showing?”
She commented, “He’s amazing!”
“What brings you to town?” inquired Sarah.
They go outside when the whole sentence is either a question or an exclamation.
When did Tom say, “You can’t go”?
The mother yelled, “It’s a home run”!
A reference book guides you to the correct grammar and punctuation: use it, study it, and memorize it because it’ll be your best friend in the long run.