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Composition Help: Punctuation Rules

Here are a few rules of punctuation to help you in your writing.

Quotation Marks

Use double quotation marks to set off exact, word-for-word quotations, and single quotation marks for quotations within a quotation. Add a space between single and double quotation marks when they are next to each other. Do not use quotation marks when writing, "He told me that Mary is going to the store." Always place periods and commas within the quotation marks. Quotation marks are also customary for titles of magazines, articles, books, and songs, though italics are also acceptable. Finally, use double quotation marks for technical terms, odd expressions, or words used in unusual ways.

Parentheses & Brackets

Never use parentheses and brackets interchangeably. Parentheses enclose information that clarifies or is an aside. You can use parentheses instead of a comma or semicolon if you deem the information to be less important. "She finally told me (after an hour of deliberation) that my pasta dinner was delicious." If the phrase in parentheses ends the sentence, place the period outside the parentheses. If a comma is necessary, place it after the parentheses as well. Brackets are only for use within quotations. They mark material that the author has added to the quotation, a [sic] when the quotation contains a mistake, or changes to the quotation to keep with proper grammar. " '[T]he better angels of our nature,' is how Lincoln ended his first inaugural address." Because the phrase appeared mid-sentence in Lincoln's original speech, the "the" was not originally capitalized.

How to Use Dashes

Dashes introduce an added emphasis, an interruption, or a change of thought. They are subtly different than commas, semicolons, and other punctuations used for the same purpose. Use your discretion for which is best in the circumstance. Notice how the dash changes the tone of this sentence: "John, my only friend, came to help me move" vs. "John – my only friend – came to help me move."

For Tutoring in Troy, MI

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