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  Home > InfoWrite > Grammar > Brief Guide to Punctuation

InfoTrac College Edition

Brief Guide to Punctuation

Period ( . )

Separates sentences

Comma ( , )

Sets off items in a series, subordinate clauses, quotations, parenthetical phrases, interjections. Used to eliminate confusion.

"Bring book, paper, and pens."

"Because we had a fire, classes are cancelled."

"Tom said, 'The exam is tough.'"

"Ann, born in Paris, speaks French."

"No, we won't leave."

Semicolon ( ; )

Joins sentences not linked with and, or, yet, but, so. Sets off items with commas in a list.

"Ask Bill; that's his job."

"We sell Corona, from Mexico; Becks, from Germany; and Harp, from Ireland."

Colon ( : )

Indicates beginning of a list following a sentence.

"We need spare parts: spark plugs, filters, and screws."

Parentheses ( )

Encloses extra information.

"Michael Collins (1890-1922) was a great leader."

Quotation Marks ( " " )

Indicate direct quotes from oral or written source and titles of short works.

"Let's go," he said.

We saw Van Gogh's "The Night Cafe."

Underlining ( _____ )

Indicates italics in printed text and used for titles of long works.

Did you read The Great Gatsby?

Dash ( -- )

Informal mark used for emphasis, usually instead of commas.

The drivers -- both drunk -- were arrested.

Hyphen ( - )

Used to indicate breaks in syllables or paired words.


Question Mark ( ? )

Shows the sentence is a question.

Apostrophe ( ' )

Shows possession and indicates missing letters or numbers.

Don't sell Tom's '64 Mustang!

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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.