Monday, May 19, 2014

The Least You Should Know - Punctuation

When writing, using punctuation helps your reader navigate your story and interpret it properly. There are several rules when using punctuation. Some you may know, others may not be as familiar.

Sometimes we all forget the basics. And,  that's okay. This may be a refresher for some of you or just the right tip you were looking for to enhance your writing.

Webster's defines punctuation as: 1. The use of standardized marks in written material to separate structural units and clarify meaning. 2. The marks used in punctuating written material.

There are six tips below to get you started on the road to proper punctuation use. In our next lesson in The Least You Should Know, we'll cover those pesky commas. Do you, or don't you?




1. Put a period at the end of a sentence and after most abbreviations.

The animals at the zoo entertained the children.

Mr. Etc. Jan. lbs.

2. Put a question mark after a direct question. But not after an indirect one.

Where are the flags?
He asked where the flags were.

3. Put an exclamation mark after an expression that shows strong emotion. Note to writers: use exclamation points sparingly in your work.

Awesome! Right on time!

4. Put a semicolon between two closely related independent clauses.

I have an appointment; therefore I must go.
We wanted to go to the big game; however we couldn't find a ride.

It is acceptable to write the above sentences without using semicolons. You can create two separate sentences.

I have an appointment. Therefore I must go.
We wanted to go to the big game. However we couldn't find a ride.

5. Put a colon after a complete statement when a list or a long quotation follows.

We used the following items: apple peeler, paring knife, and pie plate.

We used the following items is a complete statement.

We used an apple peeler, paring knife, and a pie plate.

We took is not a complete statement; it needs the list to make it complete. Therefore, since we don't want to separate the list from the first part of the sentence, no colon is used.

Stephen King said, "If you want to be a writer, you must do two thing above all others: read a lot and write a lot ... reading is the creative center of a writer's life ... you cannot hope to sweet someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you."

Stephen King said is not a complete statement. Therefore we do not put a colon after it.

I used a quotation from Stephen King in this lesson: "If you want to be a writer, you must do two thing above all others: read a lot and write a lot ... reading is the creative center of a writer's life ... you cannot hope to sweet someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you."

I used a quotation from Stephen King in this lesson is a complete statement. Therefore we put a colon after it before adding the quotation.

6. Use a dash when there is an abrupt change of thought.

I traveled all over the world looking for antiques-hey look at that squirrel.

And the dash-well, don't use it too often.


How about you? Do you have any tips about punctuation use or questions about use? Don't be shy, just ask or comment below.