serial comma

Punctuation Marks: The Serial Comma

When you use commas to separate items in a list or series, do you include a comma before the conjunction near the end of the list? For example: I write poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. (This sentence does not use a serial comma.) or I write poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. (This sentence does use…Read More

How to use a semicolon

Punctuation Marks: How to Use a Semicolon

Lots of people aren’t sure how to use a semicolon. The semicolon might be the most misunderstood punctuation mark in the English language. This dot-comma combination is often used where a period, colon, or even a plain old comma belongs. Underused and often abused, the semicolon is useful in a number of writing situations. Although…Read More

parentheses

Punctuation Marks: Parentheses

Parentheses are among the most useful and versatile punctuation marks in the English language. They can be used effectively in both formal and casual writing, and the rules surrounding parentheses allow writers to use them for a variety of purposes. They just might be my favorite punctuation marks, simply because they provide a clear way…Read More

quotation marks

Punctuation Marks: Quotation Marks for Fiction Writers

The placement of quotation marks perplexes a lot of people. Do they go inside or outside of other punctuation marks, like periods and commas? Should they be used to set off titles or to emphasize certain words? Are they¬†used for both spoken dialogue and thought dialogue? What about text messages or notes in a novel…Read More

punctuation marks apostrophe s

Is It Plural or Possessed? When to Use Apostrophe -S

It’s one of those grammar glitches that makes English teachers twitch, and it’s a perplexing punctuation problem. Knowing when to use an apostrophe and when to use apostrophe -s can be tricky, but this grammar quickie provides all you need to know about plural versus possession when it comes to apostrophe -s.

punctuation marks exclamation mark

Punctuation Marks: The Exclamation Mark

It’s a relatively simple punctuation mark — a bold one without a lot of confusing rules — yet it’s still grossly overused. It gives our sentences pizzazz. It emphasizes dialogue when one character shouts or snaps at another. And it gives copy editors headaches. The exclamation mark sure packs a punch.

punctuation marks ellipses

Punctuation Marks: Ellipsis

You see it everywhere, but most people don’t know what it’s called or how to use it properly. In fact, it’s often referred to as “dot, dot, dot” even though it does have a name.¬†This punctuation mark is the ellipsis. It is a series or row of three periods, which is usually used to indicate…Read More

the colon

Punctuation Marks: The Colon

The colon is one of the most clearly-defined punctuation marks. It occasionally acts as a stand-in for a comma or period (though when one of these other punctuation marks will do, the colon is unnecessary). Most commonly, the colon functions as an introductory punctuation mark, notifying the reader that the forthcoming information supports, explains, or…Read More

commas and clauses

Punctuation Marks: Commas and Clauses

There’s a fine art to using commas. Today we’ll look at how commas work with clauses — both dependent clauses and independent clauses. And don’t worry if you’re not sure which clause is which. Everything will be explained. Independent Clauses and Commas An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence: I watch movies. Two…Read More

dashes and hyphens

What’s The Difference Between Dashes and Hyphens?

To the passive reader, it’s a short horizontal line that appears somewhere in a text, usually joining two words together. To a writer, it’s something else entirely, but what? Is it a dash, a hyphen, or a minus sign? More than once, I’ve been pecking away at my keyboard and stopped suddenly when confronted with…Read More

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