Punctuation Cheat Sheet
A Quick Review of Basic Punctuation Rules
By Professor Amy Rofail
This information was extracted from Help Yourself: A Guide to Writing and Rewriting, Mattson, Leshing, & Levi, 3rd Edition. Englewood Cliff: Prentice Hall, 1993. (out of print). The information contained herein is consistent with all major style guides for Standard American English Language usage.
Punctuation Cheat Sheet
The Period [.]
1. Use a period at the end of each declarative and imperative sentence. 2. Use periods with certain abbreviations.
Ending declarative and imperative sentences
• The earth is not quite round.
• He came to the rehearsal carrying his cello on his back.
Imperative sentences express a command or request and ends with a period unless it is said with urgency. Examples:
• Get me a hot dog.
• Take the tools outside.
Use in some abbreviations.
• B.A. Bachelor of Arts
• Etc. Et cetera
The Question Mark [?]
Rule: Use a question mark at the end of a question.
• Who invented the electric ice cream freezer?
• Is the cellist’s bow broken?
The Exclamation Mark (Exclamation Point) [!]
Rule: Use an exclamation mark at the end of an exclamatory expression.
• I hate him!
• Run for your life!
The Apostrophe [’]
1. Use an apostrophe to show omission.
2. Use an apostrophe to show possession.
• I + am = I’m
• They + are = they’re
• Are + not = aren’t
• Over = o’er (more artistic form in poetry and lyrics) • The 1990s = the ‘90s
• The fender of the car = the car’s fender
• The hobby of the boy = the boy’s hobby
Adding ’ to a word ending in s or z sound
• The fenders of both cars = the cars’ fenders
• The bindings of the books = the books’ bindings
• The honesty of Liz = Liz’ honesty
(But also, Liz’s honesty…see Gregg)
The Comma [,]
Rule: Use a comma, or commas, to separate or to enclose certain elements within a sentence.
1. To separate certain elements, place a comma before the coordinating conjunction when two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet). • Our one-story house collapsed, but this high-rise apartment building stood during the earthquake. • Leave, or I shall leave.
• The lightning flashed and the thunder roared. (The comma can be omitted here because each clause is short and closely related, thus no pause is needed.)
2. Place a comma after each element in a series of three or more. • We visited Italy, Spain, and England. But, I visited Italy and Spain. • Staging, acting, directing—all were excellent.
• The dodo is extinct, the brown pelican will be gone, and several other species of birds are in grave danger of extinction. • I will go by plane or pony or pogo stick. NOTE: all the items in the series are joined by a conjunction, so no comma is needed.
When two or more adjectives precede a noun, then separate them by commas. • She wore a clean, blue uniform.
• She wore a new, clean, blue uniform.
• Although she was a good actress, she had a thin, unpleasant voice.
Place a comma after an introductory expression or explanation. • After all, eclipses are not daily occurrences.
• Yes, that is the right answer.
• In the first place, the lights went out in the theater. • For example, medicine has made many technological advances.
Use a comma to set off contrasting or transposed elements. • He needs money, not sympathy.
• Fiction, rather than nonfiction, fit his...
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