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  1. Punctuation for College Writing:

    A Cast of Characters
  2. Goals Learn the names and functions of Standard American English punctuation marks Practice using the marks in college-level writing contexts Ask and answer your questions Have fun!
  3. Punctuation . . . is based on grammar, not speech. is not interchangeable—each markhas a role to play. is used according to an author’s purposes.
  4. Cast of Characters The Advanced: quotation marks square brackets dash ellipsis Controversial: italics The Intermediates: colon semicolon hyphen parentheses The Basics: period apostrophe question mark exclamation point Controversial:capitals
  5. Period: The Sentence Sheriff The sentence sheriff says, “Stop. This idea about your subject is finished. You’d better have a new subject and action before you proceed further.”
  6. Complete Sentences A complete sentence is made of a subjectdoing an actionor being a certain way: The people of Madagascar speak Malagasy and French. Chinahas a large population. A lot of basketball players are very tall. A sentence is a subject and a verb: SV. Or a subject and two verbs: SV and V. If you want to add more, you’ll need to use other punctuation!
  7. Periods end sentences, including indirect questions: I wondered whether I would be late or not. Our boss asked if our guest would be on time.
  8. Periods are used in abbreviations: For example, Mr. Mrs. Ms. Dr. B.A. i.e. e.g. etc. a.m. p.m. Note: When an abbreviation ends a sentence, use only one period. We returned from our fact-finding mission at 2:35 a.m.
  9. Apostrophe: The Placeholder The apostrophe takes the place of a letter or letters in contractions. It also marks the place for the idea of “has” in possessive cases.
  10. Apostrophes in Contractions did not cannot will not is not didn’t can’t won’t isn’t
  11. Apostrophes are also used for possessive nouns: He tended to obsess over his cell phone’s apps and features. Her article presents an overview of Marx’s teachings (Hacker and Sommers 319). The beach’s sand was burning hot.
  12. Consider the number of the noun first, then the possessive apostrophe: Use ’sNoun about 1: man, Venus Possessive noun: man’s, Venus’s Plural (2+) noun (irregular form): women Poss. pl. noun (irregular form): women’s Use just Regular plural noun: girls Possessive plural noun: girls’ ’
  13. Use an apostrophe alone when a noun is plural and ends in -s: After the accident, both my bicycle tires’ rims were bent. The messages’ subject lines were the same.
  14. When two or more together possess something, use -’s or -s’ on the last noun only: I haven’t tried Ben and Jerry’s new flavor.
  15. When each one in a pair has something, put -’s on both: Hernando’s and Maria’s hopes for their daughter were wildly dissimilar.
  16. Question Mark: The Scientist A scientist inquires, wanting to know more.
  17. A question mark is for direct questions: The interviewer demanded, “Where were you, and what did you know?”
  18. Polite questions and indirect questions take a period: Would you please send me five copies of Edward Lear’s Complete Nonsensewith an invoice. I was asked who would be attending with me at the conference.
  19. Questions in a series may be written with question marks, even when not complete sentences: Where would I go at this time of night? To my friend’s house? To a hotel? To my mother-in-law’s?
  20. Exclamation Point: The Wrestler The exclamation point is for shouting and cries of shock or delight. For a calm academic discussion, don’t invite the wrestler. “Grrr!”
  21. Controversial 1: Capitals Most consider capitals an element of mechanics rather than punctuation. Capitals are used for official identification and at the start of a sentence, like the start of a journey.
  22. Capitals Titles as (or part of) names: Madam Prime Minister, Dr. Jekyll, Ms. Janssen, Aunt Judy, Mom and Dad Beginnings of sentences: We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .
  23. Titles of works:Schindler’s List, Of Mice and Men, The Woman Warrior,“A Little Less Conversation” All proper nouns, including course titles, regions and other geographical names, historical periods:Geography 206, the Southwest, the Middle Ages Never to merely emphasize
  24. Mini Quiz: Part 1 Add, Delete, No Error, or Revise: I wonder what we’re having for dinner tonight? I hurried to catch the bus. Even though I had plenty of time. I hurried to catch the bus, even though I had plenty of time. I wonder what we’re having for dinner tonight.
  25. Add, Delete, No Error, or Revise: DrWelbys medical license has expired . Dr. Welby’s medical license has expired. I’m majoring in biochemistry; my first class is chemistry 101 on Tuesday nights. I’m majoring in biochemistry; my first class is Chemistry 101 on Tuesday nights.
  26. Character Recap 1 Period: The Sentence Sheriff Apostrophe: The Placeholder Question Mark: The Inquiring Scientist Exclamation Point: The Aggressive Wrestler Capitals: Passports to the start of sentences and names
  27. The Colon: A Fanfare After an intriguing independent clause, a colon signals the entrance of its explanation.
  28. IC: a list, an appositive, or a quotation. IC = “independent clause”: a person, place, or thing doing an action. IC is basically equal to SV. I have three essentials for a day in the sun: a hat, sunscreen, and water. She coined a new term: hyperbolic gratitude.
  29. IC:IC (if the second IC explains) Faith is like love: It cannot be forced (Hacker and Sommers 317). Note: a capital after a colon is APA format; for CMS or MLA, use lowercase letters.
  30. Other Uses of the Colon: Salutation in a formal letter, a ratio, analogies, between title and subtitle, and between city and publisher in documentation Dear Sir or Madam: The ratio of women to men was 2:1. Nouns : Verbs :: Things : Actions The Glory of Hera: Greek Mythology and the Greek Family Boston: Bedford, 2011
  31. The Semicolon: The Hybrid The semicolon has qualities of a period, a comma, and a colon. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Toyota_Prius.jpg
  32. IC; IC. Many writers have expressed opinions about the semicolon; Kurt Vonnegut and Ben Yagoda are two who spring to mind.
  33. IC; transitional expression, IC. Transitional expressions (TE) include conjunctive adverbs:besides, consequently, subsequently, next, now transitional phrases:as a result, for example, in fact, on the other hand, i.e., e.g.
  34. IC; transitional expression, IC. I had to think of an interesting sentence using a semicolon; however, all I could conjure were boring ones. She spent her childhood watching television; as a result, she did very well at trivia games.
  35. IC; subject, TE, predicate. The students read a lot of novels and essays exploring the relationship between humans and the environment; the works, consequently, informed their writing.
  36. A semicolon may also be used between items with internal punctuation in a list: Classic science fiction sagas are Star Trek, with Mr. Spock and his large pointed ears; BattlestarGalactica, with its Cylon Raiders; and Star Wars, with Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader (Hacker and Sommers 314).
  37. The Hyphen: The Linker Connects two or more words functioning together as one kind of word.
  38. Hyphens link two or more words working together as one kind of word Adjectives before nouns: Mrs. Sato gave me some wax paper-wrapped candy. Freida Pinto is not yet a well-known actress in the U.S. Nouns: sister-in-law, cul-de-sac, half-life
  39. Hyphenated words may be written in a series: Do you prefer first-, second-, or third-class tickets? (Hacker and Sommers 339). He taught preschool to three-, four-, and five-year-olds.
  40. Other Uses of the Hyphen Fractions and compound numbers (21–99): one-fifth, two-thirds, twenty-three, fifty-six, ninety-nine
  41. Prefixes all-, ex-, and self-, and the suffix -elect: At the bookstore, I met my ex-patriot friends in the all-encompassing category of the self-help section. When in doubt, check a dictionary for suspected compound words!
  42. Parentheses: The Whisperers Used when a phrase is outside of the important elements of a sentence.
  43. Use a set of parentheses around added info and letters or numbers labeling items in a series. Nurses record patients’ vital signs (temperature, pulse, and blood pressure) several times a day (Hacker and Sommers 332). There are several things which could end a sentence: (1) a period, (2) a question mark, or (3) an ellipsis.
  44. Use parentheses around slight tangents and afterthoughts When I was a teenager (and isn’t it always when one was a teenager?), I liked to use a lot of dashes and parentheses in my writing. Now, I choose very judiciously when to employ a set of dashes or parentheses (one mustn’t seem too chatty).
  45. In MLA- and APA-style research papers, a parenthetical citation may be put at the end of a sentence containing a paraphrase or quotation. When reading a text, Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers advise us to “note details that surprise, puzzle, or intrigue you” (70).
  46. A citation may also occur at a natural clause break in the sentence: They go on to say that “the views of an expert can contribute to the force of your argument” (86), but you should always lead the reader through your own logic and only use experts to illustrate your own points.
  47. Mini Quiz: The Intermediates What is the main difference between the use of a colon and that of a semicolon? SV: anything that explains the SV. SV; SV.
  48. Add, delete, or no error: - Four fifths of all politicians think they are great, but ninety nine percent of their constituents know if they are. - When asked if we want to know a secret (and who among us doesn’t, many of us will lean closer to the speaker. doesn’t?), Now you’re ready for the Advanced Marks!
  49. Character Recap 2 Colon: Fanfare for an Explanation Semi-colon: The Hybrid Fusion of Marks Hyphen: The Linker for Joining Words Parentheses: The Whisperers
  50. Quotation Marks: The Gossips Gossips pass onthe words or information of others. So I said, “Blahdeeblahdee blah.” And she said, “No!” And I said, “Yes!”
  51. Don’t use quotes with well-known slang, to distance yourself from cliché expressions, or to seem self-consciously ironic: NO: The young “hipster” tried to be cute by using “air quotes.” YES: The young hipster tried to be cute by using air quotes. Also, your own essay titles should not have quotes around them.
  52. Instead, do . . .
  53. Enclose direct quotations with quotation marks, whether speech or writing! Spoken Dialogue: Jaimie walked into the kitchen. “Hey, can I ask you a question?” “Shoot,” I said, drying my hands. “What’s the difference between ‘pretense’ and ‘pretentious’?” “The first is a noun, the second an adjective.”
  54. Quote from Written Text “Shakespeare [changed] nouns into verbs (film and champion), verbs into nouns (dawn and scuffle), verbs into adjectives (hush), or adjectives into nouns (accused)” (McQuain and Malless ix).
  55. Around the titles of short works: Online articles Essays Poems Short stories Songs Chapters or subdivisions of books Scientific American article “Mars in Motion” “Mother Tongue” in our text Shel Silverstein’s “Warning” “The Tell-Tale Heart” the notorious video for “Wrecking Ball” the section “Mitosis” in our biology text
  56. Quotations in Sentences Formal introduction to a quote = Independent Clause: “Quotation.” Morrow views personal ads in the classifieds as an art form: “The personal ad is like a haiku of self-celebration, a brief solo played on one’s own horn”(Hacker 286).
  57. Says- or said-type expressions take a comma: Stephen Leacock once said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it”(Hacker 286).
  58. Blended quotations use either a comma or nothing, depending on the sentence structure . . .
  59. The future spelling bee champion could, as he put it, “quote like an actor and define words like a professor.” (said-type) Charles Hudson noted that the prisoners escaped “by squeezing through a tiny window eighteen feet above the floor of their cell” (Hacker 322). (completes verb)
  60. Quotations that start sentences will end with a comma unless they require a ? or ! “I love lemon drops,” said Grandma, looking at me wistfully. “Why were you late?” I asked, dreading the answer.
  61. Interrupted quotations use commas for explanatory words: “A great many people think they are thinking,” wrote William James, “when they are merely rearranging their prejudices”(Hacker 287).
  62. Use a period in interrupted quote if more than one sentence in a row from the same source: “I was a flop as a daily reporter,” admitted E.B. White. “Every piece had to be a masterpiece—and before you knew it, Tuesday was Wednesday” (287).
  63. Placement of Marks with Quotes Periods and commas go inside end quotes: “Worry not,” the sage advised. “It is a waste of energy.”
  64. Colons and semicolons go outside: Harold wrote, “I regret that I am unable to attend the fundraiser for AIDS research”; his letter, however, contained a substantial contribution (Hacker and Sommers 325).
  65. Put question marks and exclamation points inside quotation marks, unless they apply to the whole sentence:
  66. Compare: Contrary to tradition, bedtime at my house is marked by “Mommy, can I tell you a story now?” Have you heard the old proverb “Do not climb the hill until you reach it”? (Hacker and Sommers 325)
  67. In MLA, a quoted question with a parenthetical citation ends with a period: Rosie Thomas asks, “Is nothing in life ever straight and clear, the way children see it?” (77). (Hacker and Sommers 326)
  68. Around words discussed as things: The words “accept” and “except” are frequently confused (Hacker and Sommers 324). The word stem “-gress” can take many different prefixes: for example, “egress,” “ingress,” “progress,” and “transgress.”
  69. Square Brackets: Bodyguards Bodyguards can give people safe passage by forcing their way in and holding back the crowd. Square brackets get words correctly changed or inserted into a quote. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bodyguards_erdogan_01.jpg
  70. Square Brackets Brackets go around words or phrases inserted into quotations to clarify or make a sentence blend into your writing. Audubon reports that “if there are not enough young to balance deaths, the end of the species [California condor] is inevitable” (Hacker and Sommers 333).
  71. Brackets are also used around “sic” to indicate an error in a source is being reproduced exactly. “When your [sic] not sure how a word is spelled, look it up in a dictionary!” proclaimed an exasperated (and irony-impaired) blogger. Use [sic] rarely—no one likes a language snob.
  72. The Dash—The Drama Queen The dash is all about dramatic breaks and shifts in thought. Dashes mark words that should deserve attention.
  73. The Dash Use a dash to set off parenthetical material that deserves emphasis: Everything that went wrong—from the peeping Tom at her window last night to my head-on collision today—we blamed on our move (Hacker and Sommers 331).
  74. Set off appositives that contain commas to be clearer for readers: In my hometown the basic needs of people—food, clothing, and shelter—are less costly than in a big city like Los Angeles (331).
  75. A list, a rewording, or a dramatic shift in tone or thought Consider the amount of sugar in the average person’s diet—104 pounds per year, 90 percent more than that consumed by our ancestors (Hacker 291).* Kieretook a few steps back, came running full speed, kicked a mighty kick—and missed the ball (Hacker and Sommers 332). *Could have used colon for more formality
  76. A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more dramatic than parentheses.
  77. His first thought on getting out of bed—if he had any thought at all—was to get back in again (Strunk and White 9). The rear axle began to make a noise—a grinding, chattering, teeth-gritting rasp (9). Unlike the usual soundbite, he was a really friendly guy—until he snapped.
  78. Use a dash only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate.
  79. The Ellipsis: The Fade-out Nothing says you’ve left something unsaid like an ellipsis—unless you’ve just lost your train of thought. . . . . . .
  80. The Ellipsis (plural: ellipses) Three spaced periods. For omissions from a direct quotation. What remains must still be grammatical and make sense.
  81. Reuben reports that “when the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood rises over . . . 300 milligrams per 100, the chances of a heart attack increase dramatically” (Hacker and Sommers 333).
  82. The Ellipsis If a whole sentence (or more) is left out, put a period BEFORE the ellipsis. “Most of our efforts,” writes Dave Erickson, “are directed toward saving the bald eagle’s wintering habitat along the Mississippi River. . . . It’s important that the wintering birds have a place to roost, where they can get out of the cold wind” (292).
  83. No need to start a quote with an ellipsis, but if the end of a quote is left out, finish with an ellipsis. “To be or not to be . . .” begins one of the most famous soliloquies in the canon of Shakespeare.
  84. Controversial 2: Italics Why controversial? Italics are considered by many to be an element of mechanics, rather than punctuation.
  85. Italics are used for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,The Matrix,The Seattle Times The Oatmeal, Call of Duty, EBSCOhost You’re not going out wearing that are you? Titles of long works: books, movies, newspapers Names of web sites, video games, electronic databases Emphasis
  86. Italics are used for Challenger,Hindenberg, Marie Celeste We strolled the Hauptbahnhof before catching the train. Names of spacecraft, aircraft, ships Foreign words
  87. The words affect and effect are often misused. She stared at the phone in her hand. Why hasn’t he texted? Where is he? she wondered. Words as things Internal monologue of characters in fiction
  88. If unable to underline or italicize, use underscores before and after titles: I’m reading a critical analysis of _Some Like It Hot_ for my film studies class.
  89. Mini Quiz: The Advanced Marks In a quoted passage of text, these show you are inserting a change for clarity or grammar. Square brackets Add, delete, or no error: “ ” In her essay, Beans on Toast, Marjorie Butterworth discusses tracking our food supply from soil to table.
  90. Add, delete, or no error: It’s the current BC Reads! book, but not everyone has read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Italicize book title Accepting the check for her lottery winnings, Juanita said that “she would give half the money to charity” (Hacker and Sommers 328). Delete quotes or revise
  91. Character Recap 3 Quotation Marks: The Gossips Square Brackets: The Bodyguards Dash: The Drama Queen Ellipsis: The Fade-out Italics: The Signal for Titles, Thoughts, and Special Words
  92. Cast of Characters The Advanced: quotation marks square brackets dash ellipsis Controversial: italics The Intermediates: colon semicolon hyphen parentheses The Basics: period apostrophe question mark exclamation point Controversial:capitals
  93. Works Cited Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference, 6th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Hacker, Diana and Nancy Sommers. A Writer’s Reference with Exercises, 7th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. McQuain, Jeffery and Stanley Malless. Coined by Shakespeare: Words and Meanings First Penned by the Bard. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1998. Strunk, William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. San Francisco: Longman, 2000.