Category Archives: Punctuation

Punctuation. Related articles can be found in Spelling, English Vocabulary and Editing and Style.

How to Punctuate Dialogue

Do you ever have trouble punctuating dialogue? Comma or period? Inside or outside the quotation marks? This article will help you.

Start simple. The punctuation always comes before the quotation mark. (“Hi,” he said, not “Hi”, he said.)

Know your options. You don’t always have to use said. Asked, replied, exclaimed, whispered, mumbled, sighed, and many more can also be good, depending on what you’re writing about.


Make sure the punctuation is in the right place, especially if someone is asking a question. (“What?” she asked, not “What,” she asked?).

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How to Punctuate Titles

When a student or anyone else engages with literature or other artistic works, a common challenge can come up: providing the right punctuation for the title of a book, play or other work of literature. Even paintings and works of visual arts have their own titles that often get punctuated in specific ways. For anyone who is pondering the sometimes complex task of transcribing important names of works or identifying artistic works the right way, here are some common tips for knowing how to punctuate titles.

Use commas as appropriate. Some complex titles do have commas in the title. An example of these is when the title includes two or more generic nouns, for example, in works of fiction like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.


Check for question marks and exclamation points. Most titles of books, plays and other works will not include these. Still, this is something to consider for correctly referring to a title, especially when the work is a more modern one.

  • Use question marks when the title for a work seems to ask a question. Some books and other projects have an interrogative theme and may include a question mark in the title to emphasize this.
  • Consider adding an exclamation point if the title seems to indicate an impassioned or imperative statement.

Complete further research on newer, more avant-garde or more eccentric titles. Although the majority of titles do not include much punctuation, some specific works are written with titles that are made to express the unique nature of the play, story, etc. Look for acronyms and other uses of periods. Leaving out a period or other punctuation item in a work of art can be a problem if the artist included those bits of punctuation deliberately.

Figure out necessity for underlining, italicizing, bolding or providing quotation marks for a title. A common issue with citing titles of works is the idea that different norms apply to special kinds of artwork. Use available standards to punctuate every title the right way. Differentiate between italicizing or underlining a title and making quotes around a title. The conventional wisdom on the subject is that longer and more epic works, like novels, get italicized or underlined, while short ones and others that are part of a greater set, like a short story or a song, get put into quotation marks.

Tips

Use available style guides. For example, the popular MLA guide gives appropriate information on how to punctuate a title or any other part of a paper or project. A student can review a given syllabus for a class to see which specific style guides apply, but the general treatment of titles is the same for most major styles.

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How to Use Commas

Proper use of punctuation and grammar is quickly falling to the wayside in today’s environment of information on demand and text messaging. But improper use of punctuation identifies the writer as uneducated and makes the message unclear. Make your message unmistakable and correct with the proper use of commas!

Use these general rules (explained in detail below)

  • Use commas to separate things in a list or series.
  • Use commas between two or more adjectives that independently modify a noun.
  • Use a comma before a conjunction joining between independent clauses.
  • Use a comma after introductory words like well when they begin a sentence
  • Use commas to offset nonessential clauses and nonessential participial phrases.
  • Use commas to offset expressions that interrupt the sentence.
  • Use commas with dates and addresses.

Use commas to separate things in a list or series.
Correct: At the store I will buy apples, oranges, pears, and bananas.
Note: It’s OK to omit the final comma before the “and” like At the store I will buy apples, oranges, pears and bananas. But never omit the final comma if it makes the sentence unclear.

  • Do not place commas before or after the list or series.
    Incorrect: At the store I will buy, apples, oranges, pears, and bananas, to make fruit salad tonight.
    Correct: At the store I will buy apples, oranges, pears and bananas to make fruit salad tonight.
  • Do not use commas when all the items in a series are linked by and, or, or nor.
    Correct: Kyle and Spike and Brenda and Willow all went to the concert.
    Also Correct: Kyle, Spike, Brenda, and Willow all went to the concert.

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How to Use Quotation Marks Correctly

Quotation marks — ” — are used to enclose words that are borrowed or to set off dialog from narrative. They always come in pairs — open quotation marks and close quotation marks — which in most typefaces (albeit not this one) are typographically distinct.

When quoting someone word for word, use quotation marks to show the reader exactly which words are being borrowed from a particular source. This is especially important in research writing.

A direct quote may be woven into a sentence already in progress (see Example A) or it may be used in its entirety, either within or connected to a given sentence (see Example B).


  • Example A: In a live interview, Mayor Candor admitted that “our prostitutes are failing to meet the citizens’ needs.”
  • Example B: Dr. Striker, chief of surgery at Middleton Hospital, announced today, “Our hospital will no longer be able to offer services to people who have no health insurance.”

Quotation marks are used to set off dialog.

Example: Tom said, “Look! I don’t know how to use quotation marks, okay?”

Betsy replied, “That’s very Chinese, Thomas. I’m not proud of you.”

Understand which titles should be enclosed in quotation marks.

  • Chapter titles (but not chapter numbers) should be enclosed in quotes.
  • Titles of short stories and short poems should be enclosed in quotes.
  • Titles of newspaper or magazine articles should be enclosed in quotes.
  • Titles of essays or short works should be enclosed in quotes.
  • If parts of a long item is published over the course of several days or several separate times, (such as a play, collection or anthology), these items should be placed in quotes.
  • The name of a song’s title will be placed in quotes, while the album name should be italicized.

Use quotation marks to surround direct quotes from a source, person, etc.

  • If the quote follows a statement, it should be preceeded by a comma. A quotation that ends a sentence should contain the period, exclamation mark, or question mark within the quotation marks.
    She said, “Shelly sells seashells by the seashore.”‘
  • Likewise, if a quote has text that follows it, there should be a comma palced within the quotation marks.
    “Shelly sells seashells by the seashore,” according to today’s newspaper.
  • To enclose a quote within a quote use a single set of quotation marks.
    Shelby asked, “Hey Shelly did you say the other day, ‘I sell women by the seashore?'”

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How to Use a Colon in a Sentence

Do you feel hopelessly lost when it comes to the use of the colon? Does it haunt you in your sleep? Do you find yourself asking questions like ‘how do I use this piece of punctuation’? Well, be prepared for a long-awaited restful night and the answers to your undaunted questions. In this wikiHow article, you will learn the importance of the colon and the uses in compound sentences and lists.

When used in punctuation a colon plays the role of introducing.

Use the colon to introduce a list of items in a sentence or a title.

The information before the colon must be a complete sentence

Examples:

  • Omar can only think of one thing: scoring goals.
  • Alberto dreamed of the best way to end the season: winning the championship.
  • Francisco will have two responsibilities during the game: stop the forward from advancing and get the ball up to Ramon x
  • There are three things I love in my life: my family, my friends, and my team.

Tips

  • Try associating colons with lists and other ways of naming things successively, such as a grocery list. For example: “There are so many things I need to purchase for the party: balloons, streamers, food, soda, gifts, and plates.”
  • Remember, there is still need for an ‘and’ before the last word you are listing when using a colon. For example: “There are so many things I need to purchase for the party: balloons, streamers, food, soda, gifts, and plates.”
  • When a colon follows quoted matter, the colon goes outside the quotation marks. For example: “There were three people to whom he sang ‘The Girl From Ipanema’: his mother, his sister and his best friend.”
  • If a colon is followed by a complete sentence, capitalize the first word after the colon. For example: “While in Venice, he did something he had never done before: He took a gondola ride.”

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