Written Communication Punctuation
The Colon (:)
is used to:
- introduce the text that follows, without breaking the continuity of
thought. e.g. "Results were as follows: 24 98 72"
- introduce a long direct quotation.
- separate two independent groups that have no connecting word between them, when the first group points forward to the second. e.g. "These men were selected: Jones, Brown and Smith."
The Semicolon (;)
is used to indicate a pause longer than the comma but
shorter than the full stop. It is also used to:
- separate independent clauses when the conjunction is omitted.
- separate independent clauses joined by a conjunction if the clauses are
long or commas are used within one of the clauses.
- separate a series of phrases if commas are used within one or more of the units.
- separate independent clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb (also, therefore, however, consequently, etc).
The Comma (,)
Indicates a short pause and is used to:
- separate a series of words, phrases, or short clauses, when there are ‘
at least three units.
- separate independent sentences joined by: and, but, or, nor, neither, for.
- separate words or figures that might otherwise be misread.
- set of words or phrases inserted in the middle or the end of a sentence
to explain or modify the thought.
- introduce a short, direct quotation.
- separate a commenting clause from the rest of the sentence. (Such clauses
are often introduced by words like: who, which, if, unless, since; Subordinate clauses which define the main clause are better without the comma.)
Examples: "Jones, who was here this morning, told me that" ("who was here this morning" is a commenting clause). "The man who was here this morning told me that" (the clause here is a defining one; it completes the subject "the man", which conveys no definite meaning without it).
- point off an introductory work, phrase or clause.
The Apostrophe (')
is used to:
- indicate omission of a letter: Don't.
- signify possession: John's.
- form plurals of letters or figures: abc's all S's.
The Dash (-)
is used to:
- show interruption, change of thought, hesitancy, or suspense.
- set off statements inserted for emphasis.
- indicate the omission of letters or figures.
NOTE - Dashes should be used sparingly.