Punctuation Study Guide
The writer who neglects punctuation, or mispunctuates, is liable to be misunderstood. - Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) - American Poet, Critic, Short-Story Writer
This lesson provides a review of the basic punctuation marks that you must master if you are to become a better writer. Learning to use punctuation marks correctly is probably the simplest part of learning to write well, but that doesn't mean you should skimp on the review or take punctuation lightly.
This lesson focuses on the tiny little punctuation marks that can make all the difference between good writing and sloppy work. Remember, details are always important. As we've seen in the preceding grammar review lessons, the creation of sentences is a process of combining words into sentences that obey certain rules of construction. Those sentence structures are built using a variety of punctuation marks that are more than just an arbitrary set of dots and dashes. Try thinking of each and every sentence you write as a building you are constructing; its punctuation marks create the outer walls and inner hallways that determine the shape and size of the building. Indeed, punctuation marks are as essential to writing well as are correct verbs and coherent thoughts. Your building can easily crumble if its walls are not supported properly
The Proper Use Of The Period And Other End Marks
Everyone knows what a period is, but did you know that technically the period is called an end mark? Other end marks you must use very carefully are exclamation points and question marks.
Periods, Exclamation Points, and Question Marks
Use a period at the end of declarative sentences, those that simply make a statement, unless another punctuation mark is called for.
- It is cloudy today.
Imperative sentences (those that give a command) or exclamatory sentences or phrases (those that express a strong idea) often end with an exclamation mark.
- Be careful! That floor is very slippery!
- Yikes! I had forgotten to tell my mother what time I'll be home.
Interrogatory sentences, those that ask a question, end with a question mark.
- Did Tom invite you to his birthday party?
- What time did the pizzas arrive?
Beware! You should be very stingy with your exclamation marks. They can quickly lose their power if you use them too often. And a sure sign of a weak or untalented writer is one who is using exclamation points to convey meaning or emotion instead of using the words themselves to express the ideas.
Use periods at the end of initials and many abbreviations.
Abbreviations That Use Periods
- M.D. (doctor)
- Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy)
- P.O. (post office)
- B.A. (bachelor of arts)
- P.M. (post meridiem, Latin for after noon)
- A.M. (ante meridiem, Latin for before noon)
Abbreviations That Do Not Use Periods
- DVD (digital video disc)
- mph (miles per hour)
- CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)
- CA (California), NY (New York), CO (Colorado) (state designations as used by the U.S. Postal Service)
The rules for abbreviations are not entirely consistent. Your best bet is to notice carefully how certain abbreviations are being used when you read books and newspapers and websites, and memorize the accepted, standard usage.
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