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?


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

  1. Comfortable clothing
  2. Adequate training and skill
  3. 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.)


%d bloggers like this: