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Composition Help: Rules of Punctuation

Here are a few grammatical rules of punctuation you should keep in mind when writing.

Using Periods

A period ends a complete sentence. Question marks and exclamation points eliminate the need for a period. If your sentence ends in an abbreviation, do not add an extra period. For example, "I met with Major Payne, M.D."

How to Use Semicolons

A semicolon is a period atop a comma for a reason- they are just short of a full stop. Use a semicolon to connect two complete sentences you want to join together. "I ate at the Thai restaurant; the food was delicious." You should also place a semicolon before words such as "however," "therefore," and "for example" when these are followed by complete sentences. "I brought 100 hundred sandwiches; however, they were not enough to feed the class." Semicolons can also replace commas to separate list items or independent clauses when these contain commas. "I went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Cleveland, Ohio; and Miami, Florida."

How to Use Colons

A colon is like saying "that is to say." Use it to introduce a series of items, as in "I brought a lot of food: sandwiches, chips, hamburgers, and hot dogs." Do not use a colon after a verb or adverb. You would not write, "I want: sandwiches, chips, hamburgers, and hot dogs." Colons can also introduce long quotations, usually of two sentences or more. A colon is not a semicolon, and the two are not interchangeable, except when separating two independent clauses when the second will explain, rephrase, or expand on the first. For example, "I got what I deserved: I really earned that raise."

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