Punctuation Rules Every Writer Should Know

indexBelow are some basic punctuation rules every writer should know. We want to help writers with basic punctuation so they can focus on their actual writing. However, we mostly want everyone to learn these rules so our jobs will be easier.

Quotation Marks: There is a lot of confusion about quotation marks out there so let’s clear up some of those misconceptions. Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside the end quotation marks. Colons, semicolons and dashes ALWAYS go outside the end quotation marks. Not everything can be that easy, though, which is why the placement of exclamation points and question marks depends on the sentence. If the exclamation point or question mark is part of the quotation, then place it inside the end quotation. Put the question mark or exclamation point inside the end quotation mark if the question mark or exclamation point applies to the whole sentence.

Examples:

He said, “I’m going to the movies.”

He asked, “Where are you going?”

Did he say, “I love you”?

Hyphens and Dashes: It is also important to know the difference between a hyphen, an em-dash and an en-dash. Use a hyphen (-) when you want to connect two related words such as family-owned restaurant or when you want to clarify the meaning of a word. For example, when you want to say you paired something again, you would use re-pair instead of repair. An en-dash (–) is used to connect words in a range. An em-dash (—) is used for a phrase that interrupts a sentence or to place emphasis on a particular phrase.

Examples:

Hyphen: self-esteem

En-dash: July–September

Em-dash: She was thinking of one thing—food.

Ellipses: Ellipsis dots (…) are three dots used to show omission or an unfinished thought. They can also be used to show hesitation or pauses. Ellipses are often used to replace words in a quotation so if you use one at the end of a sentence, use four dots instead of three.

Examples:

I don’t know…I might go.

He said, “You can’t just….”

If there are any other punctuation or grammar tips you would like us to explain, please let us know. We are always open for suggestions.

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