Punctuation Menu Comments

Period, Comma, Exclamation

Period - Periods ( . ) are most frequently used to end declarative sentences. They are also used in many abbreviations (e.g., Ph.D., Dr., Mrs.) and when noting initials in a name, such as D. B. Cooper.

Comma - When presenting lists of three or more items, be sure to separate each item with a comma (e.g., milk, bread, and butter). Commas may also be used to assist the reader in making sense of long passages or compound sentences by indicating opportunities for brief pauses.

Exclamation - Use an exclamation point ( ! ) to convey emphasis of a particular point or an outburst/outcry in dialogue, but use it sparingly to avoid undermining the strength of your text. This mark should appear within quotes, brackets, and parentheses only when it is part of the original text.

Colon and Semicolon

Colon - Add a colon ( : ) after a key phrase/clause in order to add subsequent text that emphasizes or elaborates upon the meaning of the key phrase/clause.

Semicolon - A semicolon ( ; ) should be used to separate independent clauses within a sentence.

Quotation Marks

Single Quote - Single quotation marks ( ‘ ) can be used within double quotation marks to denote text that was originally contained within double quotes in the original passage or source material.

Double Quote - Double quotation marks ( ″ ) are used at the beginning and ending of a (non-block) direct quotation. They can also be used to convey the ironic or slang nature of a word or phrase or to identify article or chapter titles within text.

Apostrophe - An apostrophe ( ' ) can be used to indicate the possessive form of nouns and to indicate the omission of letters in a contraction. To make a singular noun possessive, add an apostrophe followed by an S (e.g., the cat’s toy). To make a plural noun possessive, add an S followed by an apostrophe (e.g., the teachers’ salaries). An apostrophe is never used to make a singular word plural. An apostrophe can also be used to create contractions (e.g., can’t, won’t, shouldn’t).

Parentheses and Brackets

Parentheses - Parentheses ( ( ) ) are most often used to identify independent elements within a sentence or paragraph, such as reference citations (See Table 12). They are also used to denote items appearing in a series (e.g., (a) Apples, (b) Pears, (c) Oranges), and to enclose certain numerical or statistical data, such as formulas, equations, and statistical information.

Brackets - Brackets ( [ ] ) are used highlight changes to quotations added by someone other than the author of the source material. Brackets can also be used to insert parenthetical material within text already enclosed within parentheses, or to denote certain types of statistical data, such as confidence intervals.

Hyphens and Dashes

Hyphen - Use a hyphen ( - ) when creating compound terms from more than one word.

En Dash - Use an en dash ( – ) to join words of similar weight in a compound adjective, such as heart–lung transplant or blackberry–rhubarb pie.

Em Dash - Use an em dash ( — ) to add text to a sentence that supplements or diverges from the main clause. No spaces should appear to either side of the em dash.