- What is a semicolon? Here’s a semicolon…….. ; It is used to join two complete sentences which are very closely related in meaning. Example: Mark my words; you’ll learn a lot in her language arts class! In this compound sentence, the two pieces need each other, because without the explanation, “you’ll learn a lot in her language arts class,” the statement “mark my words” wouldn’t make any sense. The two connected sentences are depending on one another.
- What is a colon? It’s this thing……… : It is used after a salutation in a block or semi-block letter. It can also be used between numbers, to indicate the time of day. Sometimes it is used to introduce a list. Example: The following authors have eBooks available for purchase: Rick Riordan, Nicholas Sparks, Suzanne Collins, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Lauren Kate . Another example: Dear Webmaster: Or Dear Customer Service Manager: And don’t forget this: It’s 9:12 a.m.
- What is a hyphen? It looks like this…………. – It can be used to connect compound words, numbers, and letter-word combinations. Here are some examples: man-eating shark, twenty–first, and T–bone steak. Many of these compound words can be found in the dictionary, but often compound adjectives (like three-dimensional) are not found in the dictionary. You can also use hyphens to break a word at the margin. Place the hyphen between syllables.
- What are parentheses? They look like this….. ( ) Parentheses are used to include helpful explanations in a sentence. Here’s an example: Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (published by Little, Brown and Company in 2005), has been translated into 37 different languages.
- What are brackets? They look like parentheses, but more square…….. [ ] They tend to be used for technical purposes, like when a website’s URL needs to be included. Here’s an example: I found my used Wii games on Craigslist [http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites], so if you want to get one for yourself, I’d look there. As a proofreading symbol, we insert them, just like we do with parentheses.
- What is an exclamation point? Here’s one….. ! An exclamation point should only be used for words that are shouted. However, if a question is shouted, avoid using an exclamation point, and use a question mark instead. Here’s an example: Aren’t you going to run? Get out of there before it explodes!**
- What is a question mark? Here’s a question mark…… ? It is used whenever questions are asked. Here’s an example: Who is your favorite Jonas brother?
- What is a period? A period looks like this….. . A period ends a sentence, abbreviation, or initial. These are some examples: H. G. Wells was an early science fiction writer. Mr. Wells was famous for his novel, War of the Worlds. Another example: I used to live at 127 N.E. Hwy. 99, Vancouver, Washington. Note the abbreviations for Mister, North, East, and the first and middle names of the author.
- What is an ellipsis? When you’re quoting someone, but you want to skip a few words of the original quotation, drop an ellipsis into your quote, like this: According to the 2002 edition of World Book Encyclopedia, “The Food and Drug Administration… requires that cosmetics be safe and properly labeled” for the American public (“Cosmetics”).
- What is a comma? This is a comma……… , For more on commas, see my page entitled, Comma Rules.
** Here’s another example that uses a shouted question: He did what? No way!