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Posts tagged PUNCTUATION

What’s up with brackets [ ]?

Although the average person rarely uses brackets, it can be a very useful (and necessary) punctuation.

1. We use [   ] when we need to make changes to an original quote. For instance, if we were to take an original quote and add our own emphasis to it, this is how we would express it:

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It is necessary to add “[emphasis added]”; otherwise, the reader might think that the italics were part of the original quotation.

2. Brackets also come in handy when we want to add a word (or words) to an original quote to make it fit better in our own sentence or to provide additional information.

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3. One of the most common uses of brackets is to point out an error that is contained in the original quotation:

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Without [sic], the reader would assume that the silly mistake was the writer’s, not the original quote’s. (For more on [sic], click on this link.)

4. Lastly, if we want to put parentheses inside parentheses, we use [   ] instead of (   ):

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What’s up with the semicolon?

The semicolon is one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated punctuations.

This famous quote from Kurt Vonnegut might have something to do with it:

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On the other hand, standardized tests (especially the ACT and SAT) insist that you know how to use a semicolon properly. Many esteemed newspaper editors also endorse the semicolon.

Kurt Vonnegut’s diatribe notwithstanding, let’s examine what a semicolon is and does:

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In other words, a semicolon combines two sentences together, and in doing so, connects their ideas more closely.

Therefore, there is one important caveat to consider when using a semicolon as a period:

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In other words, a semicolon can prevent this: I’ve seen Katy Perry perform in Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, Boston, MA, and San Diego, CA. #CommaOverdose

It is possible to overuse semicolons; combining sentences in close proximity with semicolons can make your writing seem endless; therefore, use semicolons when they’re needed (and effective). #SeeWhatWeDidThere

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What’s up with the colon?

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The colon is actually a pretty useful punctuation. It’s too bad that most people think it’s only good for making lists (and even then, most people misuse it).

The most important thing to know about colons is that the statement before the colon has to be a complete sentence, i.e., an independent clause.

In that regard, they are very much like semicolons.

However, unlike semicolons, colons do not have to be followed by complete sentences. In that sense, they are “superior” to semicolons. Perhaps that’s why semicolons have the “inferior” prefix “semi-” (half; partly).

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The colon is a versatile punctuation that does a lot more than start a list of items.

Put it to good use in your next post, tweet, or … essay!

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Read More

What’s up with the hyphen, the en dash, and the em dash?

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hyphen (-) is used to join words (e.g., “mother-in-law”) or to separate the syllables of the same word, e.g., at the end of a line if the word doesn’t fit:imageNever put a space before or after a hyphen.

NOTE: When it comes to en dashes and em dashes, different style guides (e.g., Associated Press, The Chicago Manual of Style, Guardian) have different rules and preferences, so if you are required to adhere to a certain style, you should consult the appropriate guide.

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Style preferences aside, an en dash (–) is slightly wider than a hyphen, and it usually replaces “to” between a range of numbers:image

  • Although it is generally viewed that a space before and after an en dash is optional, you should ask your teacher what he or she prefers.
  • An en dash got its name because it is the width of an n.
  • To make an en dash on a Mac, push option and - at the same time. 

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An em dash (—) is the widest of the three. It can be used in place of a colon, commas, and parentheses:image

We can also use an em dash to express the source of a quotation:imageLastly, em dashes can show that a speaker has been interrupted. (This usage will come in handy if you’re writing dialogue or fiction.)

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  • Similar to the first bullet point regarding en dashes, you should ask your teacher if he or she wants a space before and after an em dash; different teachers will give different answers.
  • An em dash got its name because it is the width of an m.
  • To make an em dash on a Mac, push option + shift + - at the same time.

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The above explanations give you a big picture look at hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. When it comes to the fine details (e.g., putting spaces before and after a dash), consult your teacher or his or her preferred style guide.

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Read More

What’s up with the interrobang‽ (?!)

An interrobang is a cool—but nonstandard—punctuation.

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This is what an interrobang looks like:

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Many people have asked whether ?! or !? is correct, undoubtedly because the Internet is rife with both forms.

The name interrobang (question mark + exclamation mark) suggests that “?!" is correct. (It’s not called "banginterro," in which case !? would be more logical.)

The interrobang is used in an emphatic rhetorical question, as seen in the following examples:

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Do NOT use interrobangs in formal writing, e.g., school essays or business letters. Your friends might think interrobangs are fun, but your teachers will find them informal.

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What’s up with punctuations in and around quotation marks?

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Before we get started, the answer to your question actually depends on where you live.

More specifically, THE FOLLOWING RULES ARE FOR AMERICAN ENGLISH, which is very strict when it comes to putting commas and periods in and around quotation marks. British English uses rules that allow the writer to determine whether the period or comma belong with the quotation or are part of the larger sentence. (See below.)

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If you want to be “safe," go with the rules for American English: if nothing else, it’s consistent and "predictable." (See what we did with the punctuations after "safe" and "predictable"?)

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Cheers.

Anonymous asked:

I love your blog so much. I want to be smart and have the knowledge of using correct punctuation and wording. Please help me. I feel stupid. Anything will help.

I answered:

Hi, Anon.

Don’t feel stupid. English is a hard language to get good at—let alone master.

Our advice is that you read books and magazines.

And as you read, follow these tips.

The key is that you work at it every single day. The improvements won’t happen immediately, but over time, you will see a dramatic change for the better.

Good luck! And if you get stuck, ask us questions.

alexander--the-great asked:

I've got a sentence that says "She was wearing a floor-length, form-fitting dress." Am I overdoing it with the hyphens?

I answered:

Hello.

You’re not wrong, but it can be argued that the hyphens in your examples are unnecessary.

Here is when a hyphen is necessary:

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Similarly, a mother-in-law is your spouse’s mother, but a mother in law can be your mother—who’s an attorney:

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Therefore, if a hyphen removes ambiguity, use it. Otherwise, don’t (unless you really want to).

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(Alligator picture source: Woodward English; Mother-in-law picture source: Ezine Articles; Eddie Murphy GIF source: GIPHY)

Yo, Grammar: What’s up with the colon?

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The most important thing to know about colons is that the statement before the colon has to be a complete sentence, i.e., an independent clause.

In that regard, they are very much like semicolonsCLICK ON THIS LINK, ANON. (⌐■_■)

However, unlike semicolons, colons do not have to be followed by complete sentences. In that sense, they are “superior” to semicolons. (Perhaps that’s why semicolons have the “inferior” prefix “semi-” [half; partly].)

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The colon is a versatile punctuation that does a lot more than start a list of items.

Put it to good use in your next post, tweet, or—best of all—your essay!

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(Dave Strider GIF Source: Homestuck Reaction GIFS)

The comma is probably the most misunderstood (yet most commonly used) punctuation.

For a thorough explanation on the proper use of the comma, read this excellent piece from the New York Times called “The Most Comma Mistakes.”

If you prefer a tl;dr version, read this Quick Guide to Commas from the always excellent Purdue OWL.

Cheers.

(Ralph GIF source: GIPHY)

Yo, Grammar: What’s up with the semicolon?

First of all, thanks for love, Anon.

The semicolon is one of the most misunderstood, misused, and underappreciated punctuations.

This famous quote from Kurt Vonnegut might have something to do with it:

On the other hand, standardized tests (especially the ACT and SAT) insist that you know how to use a semicolon properly. Many esteemed newspaper editors also endorse the semicolon.

Kurt Vonnegut’s diatribe notwithstanding, let’s examine what a semicolon is and does:

image

In other words, a semicolon combines two sentences together, and in doing so, connects their ideas more closely.

Therefore, there is one important caveat to consider when using a semicolon as a period:

image

image

In other words, a semicolon can prevent this: I’ve seen Katy Perry perform in Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, Boston, MA, and San Diego, CA. #CommaOverdose

It is possible to overuse semicolons; combining sentences in close proximity with semicolons can make your writing seem endless; therefore, use semicolons when they’re needed (and effective). #SeeWhatIDidThere

Cheers.

(Supernatural GIF source: The Dreamer)

Yo, Grammar: What’s up with the colon?

image

The most important thing to know about colons is that the statement before the colon has to be a complete sentence, i.e., an independent clause.

They are very much like semicolons in that regard; however, unlike semicolons, colons do not have to be followed by complete sentences. In that sense, they are “superior” to semicolons. (Perhaps that’s why semicolons have the “inferior” prefix “semi-” [half; partly].)

image

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The colon is a versatile punctuation that does a lot more than start a list of items.

Put it to good use.

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Cheers.

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