More Punctuation

: ; () "" ... []

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  • Use a colon [:] before a list or an explanation that is preceded by a clause that can stand by itself.

    Ex: There is only one thing left to do now: confess while you still have time.

  • Or use it before a formal list.

Ex: The following people are the senior sponsors for the 2016 class:

Mr. Gonzales

Mr. Heron

Mr. Burke

Ms. Bell

Mrs. Hensley

Mrs. Bolm

Mr. Z

  • Use it to separate an independent clause from a quotation (often of a rather formal nature) that the clause introduces.

Ex: Mr. Hensley often quotes his favorite line from Dirty Harry: "I know what you are thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"


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Use a semicolon [ ; ]

  • to help sort out a monster list:
    There were citizens from Bangor, Maine; Hartford, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts; and Newport, Rhode Island.
    We had four professors on our committee: Peter Wursthorn, Professor of Mathematics; Ronald Pepin, Professor of English; Cynthia Greenblatt, Professor of Education; and Nada Light, Professor of Nursing.

  • to separate closely related independent clauses:
    My grandmother seldom goes to bed this early; she's afraid she'll miss out on something.


Use parentheses [ ( ) ] to include material that you want to de-emphasize or that wouldn't normally fit into the flow of your text but you want to include nonetheless.
Ex: I love my shirt that I got (on sale) from Wal-Mart.

Quotation Marks

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Use quotation marks [ “ ” ] to set off material that represents quoted or spoken language. Quotation marks also set off the titles of things that do not normally stand by themselves: short stories, poems, and articles. Usually, a quotation is set off from the rest of the sentence by a comma.

Ex: Jeff asked Sidney, "Do you feel lucky? Do ya punk?" as he aimed the loaded nerf gun.

My favorite short stories are "Story of an Hour", "The Yellow Wallpaper", and "A Worn Path".

Did you read the article "Reading Makes You Smarter"?

Following a form of to say, however, you'll almost always need a comma:

  • My father always said, "Be careful what you wish for."

If the quoted speech follows an independent clause yet could be part of the same sentence, use a colon to set off the quoted language:

  • My mother's favorite quote was from Shakespeare: "This above all, to thine own self be true."

You must use single quotation marks [ ‘ ’ ] to enclose quoted material (or the titles of poems, stories, articles) within other quoted material:

  • "'Design' is my favorite poem," he said.
  • "Did she ask, 'What's going on?'"
  • Ralph Ellison recalls the Golden Age of Jazz this way: "It was itself a texture of fragments, repetitive, nervous, not fully formed; its melodic lines underground, secret and taunting; its riffs jeering—'Salt peanuts! Salt peanuts!'"

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An ellipsis [ ] proves to be a handy device when you're quoting material and you want to omit some words.

Ex: Mr. Hensley often quotes his favorite line from Dirty Harry: "I know what you are thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?'. . . you've gotta ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"

The ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in the flow of a sentence and is especially useful in quoted speech:

Juan thought and thought … and then thought some more.
"I'm wondering …" Juan said, bemused.


Use brackets [ [ ] ] in the following situations:

You can use them to include explanatory words or phrases within quoted language:

Ex: Lew Perkins, the Director of Athletic Programs, said that Pumita Espinoza, the new soccer coach [at Notre Dame Academy] is going to be a real winner.

If you are quoting material and you've had to change the capitalization of a word or change a pronoun to make the material fit into your sentence, enclose that changed letter or word(s) within brackets:

Ex: Espinoza charged her former employer with "falsification of [her] coaching record."