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Check Punctuation Closely

In order to make sure your project is read and communicated with the proper meaning, all punctuation marks must be accurate and in place. These marks are what insure that the paper is read with the same kind of meaning and interpretation that a listener would have if you were giving the report orally. If you are weak on punctuation, you may need to pick up a copy of "The Elements of Style," by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. It is available at your local book store in paperback and has been an excellent reference for decades for students needing help with punctuation, composition and style.

The following may serve as a quick refresher for proper use of common punctuation marks:

  1. Period: Use a period at the end of an abbreviation (Mrs. Connor) and to end a sentence used to present an idea.
  2. Question mark: Use at the end of a sentence that asks a question.
  3. Comma: Use to separate a grouping of three or more items in a sequence. (Our intramural basketball games will be on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.) Use also to separate independent thoughts in a sentence. (We wanted to go to the dance, but the car had a flat tire.) If you are using introductory words in a sentence you will need a comma. (Surely, you don't think I would do that.) Also use a comma to set off dates and addresses within a sentence. (Americans recall, December 7, 1941, as a date that will live in infamy.)
  4. Semicolon: Use a semicolon when two independent thoughts in a sentence are not connected by an "and" or other conjunction. (My favorite hockey player of all time is Bobby Hull; he was also my Dad's favorite.) Use a semicolon when you separate any two thoughts in a sentence with any transitional word such as however, therefore, for example, for instance and others. Use a semicolon when you are listing a series that includes commas. (Our stops included Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado and Phoenix, Arizona.)
  5. Colon: Use a colon when an independent clause is followed by a list. (Next semester I intend to take the following courses: Calculus, American Literature, Sociology and Elementary Logic.) Always use a colon when writing a time. (My Advisor said he could meet with me at 2:45pm on Wednesday.)
  6. Exclamation Point: Use an exclamation point at the end of a sentence to show strong emotion. (I am not going to ever allow you to do that!) It can also be used after a sentence to show emphasis. (I want that done right now!) You will need an exclamation point at the start of a sentence if you are using an interjection to show strong feeling. (Wow! That's a good-looking car.)
  7. Apostrophe: Use an apostrophe where a letter would normally be that is not used. (Won't you help me?) If you are intending to show possession, you will need an apostrophe. (Maybe I can borrow John's car.)

Last Updated: 08/20/2013


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