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Punctuation!

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by

Mark Messer

on 26 November 2013

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Transcript of Punctuation!

Punctuation!
"Punctuation" means, more or less, the making of points. ("Punct" means point.) Learning how to use punctuation marks correctly is very important because we use them to make our meaning clear. For example, if we write what we would like for dessert, commas help to define exactly what we mean. Let's look at some examples.
1. chocolate cake ice cream
Without commas, this is one dessert, ice cream made out of chocolate cake.

2. chocolate cake, ice cream
With one comma in the middle, this is two desserts, chocolate cake and ice cream

3. chocolate, cake, ice cream
With two commas, this is three sweets, chocolate AND cake AND ice cream.

4. chocolate, cake, ice, cream
With three commas, well, you get the idea. Commas are important.
If I write who was in my class with commas, we know how many people were there.

John, Alex, James, Cindy, Barbara, and Tom.

Six people.

Without commas, it sounds like one person with a long name, and one with a short name.

John Alex James Cindy Barbara and Tom.

I've heard some pretty long names, but that's the strangest.
Why is it important?
What are the punctuation marks, and how do we use them in American English writing?
.
the "period,"
"decimal point,"
or "dot"

,
"comma"

'
"apostrophe"

;
"semicolon"

:
"colon"

?
"question mark"

!
"exclamation mark"

-

"hyphen"
"n-dash"



"m-dash"

( )

"parentheses"

[ ]

"brackets"

{ }

"French brackets"

/

"slash"
"forward slash"

\

"back slash"

" "

"quotation marks"

This little mark has three different names for three basic uses.

It is called a "period" in American English when it ends a complete statement. (In British English, it is called a "full stop.") The "period" is one of three marks which can end a sentence; the others are the exclamation (!) and question marks (?).

When it is used in mathematics, it is called a "decimal point," or a "point" for short. When we read numbers, we actually say "point." For example, the number "45.7" is pronounced "forty-five point seven" not "forty-five dot seven."

When it is used in a web address, it is called a "dot." For example, "prezi.com" is pronounced "prezi dot com" not "prezi point com."
Like the period, the "question mark" can end a sentence, but not just any sentence. It only ends "interrogative" sentences, which are also called "questions." Do you see the question mark at the end of this question?

Sometimes it is used to show confusion, as in this example.

"She bought you dinner? She told me she didn't have any money!"

As you can see, though it usually requires the word order of a question, in the second example, it's used with the word order of a statement.
Like the period and the question mark, the "exclamation mark" or "exclamation point" can end a sentence. It is used to end an emphatic sentence, like a warning, to show excitement, or to show that someone is shouting.
The "apostrophe" has three primary uses. It can be used to form the possessive of nouns, to show that something was taken out, and to pluralize things that would otherwise be confusing with just an "s." The first two are pretty easy to understand, but let's look at details about all three.
To show possession

Add (
's
) to singular nouns even if they end in -s.
the cat
's
toy James
's
basketball

Add
's
to plural nouns that do not end in -s.
women
's
rights the mice
's
cheese

Add
'
to the end of plural nouns that end in -s.
the houses
'
chimneys our two dogs
'
toys

Note: no apostrophe is used for personal pronouns (his book/his, her book/hers, my book/mine, your/yours, their/theirs, our/ours, its book/its). Indefinite pronouns DO use them (one's book, somebody's cat).

For more on pronouns, go to this Prezi:
http://prezi.com/xsrhjydea47q/pronouns/
To show where something was taken out (of a word, etc.

Contractions are words that are pushed together in speech. For example, we can say "He will," or we can push the words together and say "He
'
ll." The apostrophe between the "He" and "ll" shows that letters were taken out. The apostrophe makes it clear what the contraction means and how it should be pronounced. Without the apostrophe, we might think the person wrote about "hell."

We also use apostrophes when we don't want to write all four numerals in a year. Instead of "class of 2013," we can write "class of '13."

For more on contractions and reduced speech, go to this Prezi: (Under Construction)
To make something plural if using just an "s" could be confusing.

When we use small letters to represent something, like a grade, we use an apostrophe to clarify what we mean.

"This semester, I got 2 a's and 3 b's."
Without the apostrophe, it would say "2 as and 3bs." Because we use the numbers 2 and 3, the reader could figure out what you mean, but what about in this question?

"Are as important?" ("Are a's important?")

If capitalized, there is no need for the apostrophe.

"Are PS2s good game consoles?"
Colons have just a few uses. We use them in times (4:30); in ratios (the odds are 3:1); and in play or movie scripts (John: Can you believe Mary-Louise is our killer!?!).

We use them between
nouns
and
their details or parts
.

"My mother
has

three pets
:

a cat, a snake, and a rat
."

"He
went shopping
for
groceries
:

milk, cheese, bread,..
."

"She
told
him
how she felt
:

angry
."

"She
told
him
what she thought
:
he is a prince
."

In all these cases,
the noun
and
the details, list, etc
. come AFTER the main verb in the sentence. If we made these nouns the subjects of the sentences, we would probably not use colons, but find a different way to punctuate them. How? Let's look.
"My mother
has

three pets
:

a cat, a snake, and a rat
."
"My mother's
three pets
(
a cat, a snake, and a rat
)
eat
a lot.

"He
went shopping
for
groceries
:

milk, cheese, bread,..
."
"
The groceries
(
milk, cheese, bread,...
)
spoiled
in the car."

"She
told
him
how she felt
:

angry
."
"
How she felt
(
angry
)
surprised
him."
"
How she felt
,
angry
,
surprised
him."

"She
told
him
what she thought
:
he is a prince
."
"
What she thought
(
He is a prince
)
wasn't
important.
"
What she thought
, that
he is a prince
,
wasn
't important.

Can you figure out why the first two don't have as many options?

Commas are used in numbers, but only to the left of the decimal point.

122,964 is pronounced "one hundred twenty-two THOUSAND nine hundred sixty four."

If you come from a country with different numbering system, there's an easy way to learn the American system. Learn how to say all the numbers up through the hundreds first. This repeats itself between commas. Then, learn what to say at each comma.

200
,
109
,
569
,
712 looks like a hard number to say, but the numbers between the commas are easy, right?

two hundred, one hundred nine, five hundred sixty, seven hundred twelve.
Commas are used in series of three or more.

One kind of series is a list. Use a comma between the items in the list. Remember the
conjunction
!
"I feel angry, hurt,
and
confused!" "Bring me water, milk,
or
tea."

If only two choices are given, just use the
conjunction
.
"Bring me water
or
tea."

You can also put many kinds of
phrases
in a series of three or more. Here are three.
"We
ate breakfast
,
went hiking
,
saw a movie
, and
took a nap
." (verb phrases)
"The band plays o
n Tuesday
, o
n Thursday
, and
on Saturday
." (adverb phrases)
"
Bob from Maine
,
Sue from Iowa
, and
Kota from Hawaii
all cried." (noun phrases)

Commas are used around appositives.

An appositive is a noun that is the same as another noun in the sentence. They don't define who or what we're talking about. This means they are non-defining or non-restrictive.

For example, "Bill Gates" = "The founder of Microsoft"
"Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, bought me lunch!"
"I bought lunch for Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft."

Another example, "My mother" = "Judie Messer"
"My mother, Judie Messer, loves sweets."

The person doesn't have be famous, they just have to be defined/specified. "My mother" is a specific person, and "Judie Messer" is the same person.
Commas are used after introductory words, phrases, or clauses.

Sometimes we take an adverb, like "after the party," and we move it to the beginning of the sentence to connect to something we already mentioned, to introduce something, or for another reason. Let's compare two ways of saying the same thing.
"John and I went to a party where we danced with some friends of ours. We went swimming
after the party
."
"John and I went to a party where we dance with some friends of ours.
After the party
, we went swimming."

In the first passage, "
after the party
" is in the natural adverb position." As we read it, we might think "swimming" happened at the party.
In the second, "
after the party
" is at the beginning before a comma.
Putting it there makes it clear that "swimming" happened later.
Similar to appositives, relative clauses can tell us about someone or something. If a relative clause gives us extra information about that someone or something, then we use commas (
non-restrictive relative clause
). If the relative clause gives us information that we must have to define the someone or something, then we don't use commas
(restrictive relative clause
). Let's look at some simple examples.

"I gave the bag to John Wilson,
who ran for Mayor last year
."
"John Wilson,
who ran for mayor last year
, is my neighbor."

In both examples, "John Wilson" tells us who we're talking about, and "who ran for mayor last year" is additional information. This works if we only know one man named "John Wilson." But what if you and I know several "John Wilsons?" Then, the clause is necessary.

"I gave the back to John Wilson."
"I know three John Wilsons."
"Oh, I gave it to the John Wilson
who ran for mayor last year
."

Here, the restrictive relative clause is needed to define which John Wilson I'm referring to.

This is just a simple, short explanation. For more detailed information on relative clauses, see this (under construction).

You just need to learn what to say for each comma. From the left, they are
BILLION
,
MILLION
, and
THOUSAND
.

Put it all together and you have two hundred
BILLION
, one hundred nine
MILLION
, five hundred sixty
THOUSAND
, seven hundred twelve.

Here are the word to say for the commas after billion: trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, septillion, octillion, nonillion, and so on.
The rules look the same for series of clauses
"
We ate breakfast
,
we went hiking
, and finally
we took a nap
."

But with clauses, you should use a comma even if there are only two
"
We ate breakfast
, and
we took a nap
."

It gets a little more complicated when you mix
independent
and
dependent
clauses. If the
dependent clause
comes first, put a comma after it, but if it comes second, don't. That's the "natural order."
"
I love you
because you're smart
." "
Because you're smart
,
I love you
."
"
I will be happy

if you smile
and
after he leaves
."
"
If you smile
and
after he leaves
, I
will be happy
."

Let's look at a different example.
"
When standing on the subway
, hold onto a bar or strap."

In this sentence, "when standing on the subway" includes the idea of "you" even though it isn't stated. This is a warning for anyone riding the subway. It has a comma after it to show that it isn't in the natural position "Hold onto a bar or strap
when standing on the subway
."

Why should the clause go at the beginning instead of in the natural position? Because the message is only for people who are standing on the subway. People who are sitting will read the clause and may not read the rest of the message, but if we put the clause at the end, then they must read the whole sentence.
So, I believe that whenever you move an adverb to the front of a sentence from the natural position, you should put a comma after it. Other people disagree. They think it's only necessary to use the comma if the introductory part is long. You can decide which way makes sense to you.

"Today John bought a car." "Today, John bought a car."
"At school I'm in charge." "At school, I'm in charge."
"With his guns drawn Otto shouted."
"With his guns drawn Otto shouted."

As the introduction gets longer, the need for a comma increases. Keep in mind that a comma represents a pause in speech, so if you would pause after saying the word "today," then you should definitely use a comma after it.
Semicolons can be used to divide items in a list, like commas can, but they are "higher level," or stronger.

First, you can use them to separate lists within lists. What? Here's an example.
"For lunch, you can have
pizza
,
a sandwich
, or
a salad
."

This simple list uses commas and a conjunction to show the divisions, but what if you offer three choices of pizza, three sandwich choices, and three choices of salad? Notice that semicolons separate the larger groups (pizza, sandwiches, and salad), but that commas separate the choices inside those groups.

"For lunch, you can have
pepperoni, veggie, or cheese pizza
;
a tuna, chicken, or tofu sandwich
; or

a Greek, Cesar, or chef salad
."
In the same way that commas can be used to combine clauses ("I bought a bike, John bought a ball, and Adam bought cards."), semicolons can be used to combine longer clauses and/or clauses that already have commas in them.

They were right to quit the project. The public was starting to think they were fools; the research funding from the Chatterly Institute in New Haven dried up; and they hadn't found any evidence of poltergeist activity in two years of research. (Two semicolons and a conjunction separate three long independent clauses.)

The boys had reason to celebrate. Jacob was made a partner in his law firm, Dillon, Miller, and Smith; Bwana finally asked his girlfriend to marry him; and Isaac finally decided to sell his homes in Maine, Nevada, and Utah. (Two semicolons and a conjunction separate three clauses which already have internal punctuation.)
Semicolons can also be used to connect sentences WITHOUT conjunctions if the relationship between them is clear.

"The airport expansion is almost finished; service should return to normal soon." (The second thing will happen as a result of the first.)

"They couldn't finish the project by the end of class; they decided to meet over the weekend. (again, a causal connection)

They are also used with limited set of words called conjunctive adverbs (consequently, however, moreover, therefore) in the following way.

"The airport expansion is almost finished; therefore, service should resume soon."

"She kicked him out of the house; moreover, she threw out all of his possessions."
In a list of three or more items, I use a comma before the conjunction as in the examples above. This is called an "Oxford comma."
Other people argue that you don't need a comma before the conjunction. They think it's okay to write "I feel angry, hurt and confused."
Here, a comma isn't needed to make the meaning clear, but look at another example.
"I saw two dogs, Bob, and Charlie." vs. "I saw two dogs, Bob and Charlie."

With the Oxford comma, I know you saw two dogs and two men.
Without the Oxford comma, I may have seen two dogs and two men, or I may have seen two dogs named Bob and Charlie.
Quotation marks are used in five basic ways: to show speech in dialogue; to show thinking in stories; to show exactly what a source said; to refer to words, not what the words mean; and to use a word or phrase figuratively, not literally.
First, we use quotation marks to show what someone said in a narrative story. This is called dialogue. For example,

Bob walked into the room and asked,
"
Are you still here?
"
Mary answered,
"
Of course I am. Do you really think I could finish the work you gave me in one afternoon?
"

"
Don't talk to me like that.
"
he yelled.

The quotation marks show us the exact words that the characters in the story spoke. Each time a new person speaks, start a new paragraph. If one person speaks, it's called a "monologue". We use the word "dialogue" for two or more speakers

For more on writing dialogue, click here. (to be added later)

Second, some writers use quotation marks to show the exact thoughts of a character. It looks just like it does for dialogue except the
word of attribution
is different.

"
She'll never finish her work,
"
Bob
thought
.

Can you imagine a problem using quotation marks like this? Well, if the same writer uses quotation marks around exact thoughts and exact speech, it might be difficult to know which is which until you read the words of attribution.
Third, to make our writing stronger, we use what experts have said or have written. We do this mostly in academic essays, research papers, newspaper articles, etc. If we use the exact words of the source, we use quotation marks to show it.

In the words of Einstein,
"
I never think of the future. It comes soon enough
"

(Harris).

In academic writing, we also use
in-text citation
to show where we got the quote. For more on how to use sources in your own writing, go to this Prezi: http://prezi.com/mozi67yqbnu9/using-sources-in-your-work/

Fourth, we use quotation marks around words or phrases when we want to talk about them as words or phrases, not what they mean. Let's compare two similar sentences.

Bob is boring. vs. "Bob" is boring.

The first sentence has no quotation marks, so we must be talking about the person named Bob. We think he is boring.

The second sentence has quotation marks, so we must be talking about the word "Bob." We think the name is boring. We aren't talking about the person.
Fifth, we use quotation marks around words or phrases when they have figurative meanings, not literal meanings. "Literal" means the true meaning of the words, "figurative" means that we are using the word in a clever way, like in a figure of speech, but not in the literal way.

My boss is such a "stuffed shirt."

My boss is not literally a shirt. "Stuffed shirt" is a figure of speech which means "a person who is arrogant, formal, full of himself, etc."

This use of quotation marks is sometimes necessary to avoid confusion, but it is becoming less common among writers.
Note: it is possible to quote someone who is quoting someone else. Imagine that Susan said to Carrie "John is a foolish little monkey." She might not know that Carrie and John are close friends. Carrie might want to tell John what Susan thinks. The writer could write this in a dialogue like this.


"
What is it that you want to tell me, Carrie?
"
John asked.
Carrie answered,
"
Susan said that you are a
'
foolish little monkey
'
yesterday!
"

We use
normal double marks
on the outside and
single marks
(like apostrophes) on the inside. It's possible to have a quote inside a quote inside a quote, and so on. Always start with normal quotation marks on the outside.
Parentheses (-sis, singular) seem to be the ancestor of the comma, at least as they are sometimes used. They are used to include information that isn't needed to understand your writing, but that might be useful, like above.

As additional info:
She gave us two choices (orange and purple) for wall color.
She gave us two choices (though we wanted more) for wall color.
(In both of these, commas would be okay.)

As in in-text citation:
According to an expert, cats are smart (Miller, 27).

To show order of operations in math (which you do first):
(x+3)(x-7)
Brackets are used in some of the same ways as parentheses, but also in very scientific ways that I won't cover here.

In mathematics, they are like higher order parentheses.
[(3 + 2) × (6 - 4) + 2] × 4.
We calculate what's in parentheses first, then what's in brackets, then whats outside the brackets.

We use brackets to change something in a quotation. For example, if a man is giving a long speech about cats, but uses they word "they" in the middle, and you want to use only that part, change the word "they" to "cats" like this.

Miller said, "research shows [cats] are smarter than we think."
We can also use brackets inside parentheses when we put writing inside writing kind of like when we put quotations inside quotations.

Miller made the discovery while doing research on cats [and later on dogs (Miller, 22)], but didn't announce his findings right away.
French brackets are one more option if you want to put brackets inside other brackets.
Hyphens and n-dashes often look the same now, but they used to be different. A hyphen was shorter. Now, they are defined by how they are used. An n-dash is also just called a dash. It's called an "n-dash" because it is traditionally the same width as the letter "n." An m-dash is wider.
Notice the line between "n" and "dash" in the word "n-dash." That line is a hyphen, which can be used to combine multiple words into a single word. Why?

compare these two phrases
small car factory vs. small-car factory

The first one is three words: two adjectives and a noun. A "small car factory" is a small factory and a car factory.

The second is actually two words: a compound adjective and a noun. A "small-car factory" is a factory that makes only small cars.
Hyphens can be used to combine even more words. For example, that the first snow of winter is considered very exciting. If you want to express that level of excitement about something else, you can create a long, hyphenated adjective. Look at this question and answer.
How much of a thrill was the party?
Well, it wasn't a first-snow-of-winter thrill, but it was fun.
Hyphens were used to make a single compound adjective, "first-snow-of-winter," which modifies "thrill."
Hyphens are also used in some numbers which are written as words. Which ones? Numbers made by combining the "tens" place starting with twenty and the single numbers one through nine. This is important if you have two write out a check. Imagine winning $158,348,259 in a lottery. On the check, the amount would be written out like this.

One hundred fifty-eight million, three hundred forty-eight thousand, two hundred fifty-nine.
The n-dash is used in ranges like these:

Read chapter 7 (pp. 77-94).
The company operated for decades (1922-1985).

Or in scores, like this:
Boston beat New York 12-7.
Hyphens are also used in phone numbers.

(207) 555-2746

And if a long word is typed at the end of a line, and if that word is split into two pieces, a hyphen is used at the end of the line to show that more of the word is coming. With modern computers, this rarely happens, but if it did, it would look like this.

My brother, sister, and uncle achieved a nearly im- possible thing.
While the hyphen and the n-dash may look the same, and therefore be used in similar ways, the m-dash is different. First, it is longer.

Though some say that we can use it instead of commas for an appositive (I met two people—Ella and Minnie.), I see no need to make things more complicated than necessary. You can use commas or a colon for the same purpose.
I met two people, Ella and Minnie. (good enough)
I met two people: Ella and Minnie. (good enough)
I only use an m-dash to introduce or surround an "aside," when you want to add a comment in the middle of a larger sentence.

Al Hart met Louise Ford—
yes, those Fords
—when he was 32, and she was 39.

The
added information
doesn't really relate to the meaning of the sentence well, but it's interesting, and so it is inserted where it makes the most sense to insert itm right by her name.
The slash, a.k.a the forward slash, is used in web addresses. If you look at the address of this Prezi in the browser address line at the top of this page, you should see a few of them.

It is also used in some very specific abbreviations, like these w/ (with) and w/o (without).

It is used in fractions and ratios, like 3/4 and oil/water.

It is used to show choices like Gender: M/F

One more common use is in dates 12/22/2013.

There are numerous other uses. Look for them everywhere.
The backslash is used primarily in computing, and I mention it here only to contrast it with the slash. Here is one example.

alert or bell character ('\u0007')
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