English

Written Communication Punctuation

The Colon (:)

is used to:

  1. introduce the text that follows, without breaking the continuity of
    thought. e.g. "Results were as follows: 24 98 72"
  2. introduce a long direct quotation.
  3. 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:

  1. separate independent clauses when the conjunction is omitted.
  2. separate independent clauses joined by a conjunction if the clauses are
    long or commas are used within one of the clauses.
  3. separate a series of phrases if commas are used within one or more of the units.
  4. separate independent clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb (also, therefore, however, consequently, etc).

The Comma (,)

Indicates a short pause and is used to:

  1. separate a series of words, phrases, or short clauses, when there are ‘
    at least three units.
  2. separate independent sentences joined by: and, but, or, nor, neither, for.
  3. separate words or figures that might otherwise be misread.
  4. set of words or phrases inserted in the middle or the end of a sentence
    to explain or modify the thought.
  5. introduce a short, direct quotation.
  6. 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).
  7. point off an introductory work, phrase or clause.

The Apostrophe (')

is used to:

  1. indicate omission of a letter: Don't.
  2. signify possession: John's.
  3. form plurals of letters or figures: abc's all S's.

The Dash (-)

is used to:

  1. show interruption, change of thought, hesitancy, or suspense.
  2. set off statements inserted for emphasis.
  3. indicate the omission of letters or figures.

NOTE - Dashes should be used sparingly.


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