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Technical English - ESLI-595: Punctuation

Welcome! In this guide, you will find resources to support your studies in ESLI 595. Use the tabs and drop-down menus to navigate this guide.


Read more about punctuation below: 


Although these games are designed for K-12 students, they provide very useful practice with immediate feedback. 


Use a comma before conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor, yet, so) only when they join independent clauses.

I will leave work at four o'clock, and I will arrive home at fice o'clock. 

I will drive you to the train station, but I wwill not pick you up at the airport. 

Use a comma to separate items in a list or series. 

I plan to purchase a raincoat, boots, and a purse.

I prepared lunch, Karen brought the utensils, and Anna drove us to the picnic. 

Use a comma to separate multiple adjectives which modify a single noun

the dank, dark night

the long, lonely road

Use a comma after an introductory modifier.

Unless you have any further comments, this meeting is adjorned. 

After today, I will never shop that mall again. 

Before I mop, I must move all the furniture. 

Well, I have never seen such a beautiful sunset. 

No, I cannot help you. 

Use a comma to separate words that might be incorrectly read together. 

CORRECT: Once inside, the kitten hid behind the couch.

INCORRECT: Once inside the kitten hid behind the couch.


Periods, Question Marks, & Exclamation Marks

. Use the period to indicate the completion of a declarative sentence. It is also used in abbreviations.  This is a wonderful sentence.
. Periods can be used to abbreviate words. Mr., Mrs., Esq., Jr., Sr. 
? A question mark is used at the close of a direct question.  How do you like your classes? 
! An exclamation mark is used to express strong feelings. Help! 


Colons & Semicolons

: A colon may be used to signal an explanation, a quotation, or the beginning of a list. 

When I go to the supermarket, I must remember to buy the following: a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, and a carton of eggs. 

: Use a colon to separate hours from minutes and minutes from seconds; bible verses from chapters; and titles from subtitles. 


Mathew 7:1-2

1961: The Civil War Awakening

; A semi-colon may be used to join two complete sentences that are related.  He didn't stay for dessert; he was tired. 
; semi-colon may be used to separate items in a list when commas occur within items in the list.  Over the last twenty years, she has visted Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; and Dallas, Texas.  

Apostrophes & Quotation Marks

' An apostrophe can be used to indicate the possessive of nouns and indefinite pronouns.

That is Phil's dog. 

My backpack is red; her's is yellow. 

' An apostrophe can be used to indicate omitted letters in contractions.

Cannot → Can't

Should not → Shouldn't

Is not → Isn' 

' A single quotation mark may be used to idicate a quote or speech within a quote or speech.  "I asked him what he thought about the movie," she began, "and he said, 'I prefer the book.'"
" Double quotation marks be used to indicate a quotation or speech.   When asked if she would attend the luncheon she said, "I have better things to do." 

Dashes, Hyphens, & Parentheses

-- Use a dash to indicate a sudden change in thought or course in the sentence.  All violators -- and I mean all violators -- will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 
- Use a hyphen to indicate the division of a word at the end of a line of text. 

When you come to the end of a line of text and you cannot fit an en-

tire word, use a hyphen to divide the word at the end of the line. 

- Use a hyphen to create compound modifiers appearing before nouns

We have booked a week-long stay at an all-exclusive resort.

() Use parentheses to enclose information which is related to but might otherwise interrupt the flow of the main sentence. Be sure to eat a healthly lunch (I packed a bag of carrot sticks for you) because you'll need your energy for your hike. 
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