Required Texts: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (2003). The Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon (1983). [original edition] The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (1999)
. . .
PERIOD/FULL STOP/END STOP. Every one of them is guilty.
COLON: Florida has four seasons: tolerable, hot, really hot, and snowbird.
SEMICOLON; She loves peach; I like coconut better.
QUESTION MARK? So what’s the use?
EXCLAMATION POINT! Don’t shout!
COMMA, The patient had severe, but not global, knee pain.
. . .
Some special considerations:
Use a COMMA before and, or, nor, but, for, so, yet, and still when these words are used to connect independent clauses of a compound sentence: THAT WAS THEN, AND THIS IS NOW.
Use a SEMICOLON to connect independent clauses of a compound sentence IF and, or, nor, but, for, so, yet, and still are missing: THAT WAS THEN; THIS IS NOW.
BUT: Use a SEMICOLON before and, or, nor, but, for, so, yet, and still in a compound sentence IF either clause is long OR (and this is important) either clause contains some other internal punctuation, like a comma or commas, colon, dash, or parentheses: THAT WAS THEN; YET THIS IS NOW, AS FAR AS I AM ABLE TO TELL.
Do not use quotation marks if words are directed by a person to herself or himself or are merely unexpressed thoughts BUT capitalize the first word: She thought, What will I have to pay? He said to himself, Not this time!
Simple Rules for Vertical Lists: Here are some simple rules for vertical lists:
- Use a colon before a vertical list if the introductory element is grammatically complete, otherwise no colon.
- Use periods after all items in a vertical list if the items are complete sentences, otherwise no punctuation, except a period after the last item in the list.
- Use capital/uppercase letters to begin each item in the list.
My needs are simple:
- To have food
- To obtain adequate shelter
- To wear appropriate clothing.
Each hiker has to have
- Comfortable clothing
- Adequate training and skill
- Knowledge of the area.
. . .
To remember: Many rules, many uses, all for clarity, emphasis, style. Know the basics. A semicolon is more like a semi-period, a “partial” stop. It ends, yet connects. It also separates, like a super-special comma. A colon is a stop. It is like an equal (=) sign. It is sometimes like a period on top of another period. Both are special for writers, for communicators. Use them well–and carefully, like the use of a dash. (That comes in another lesson.)