Overview of Punctuation Rules

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A period is used at the end of a sentence. After a period, the first letter in the next sentence should always be capitalized.

I like listening to music. Reading German magazines is something I like to do too.



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A comma provides a break in the middle of a sentence. Its usage depends on many different things.

1. A comma follows a coordinate conjunction (and, or, but, for, nor, so, yet) if both clauses on either side of it are independent.

I like listening to music, and I like reading German magazines.

If one of the clauses on either side of the coordinate conjunction is not independent, no comma is needed.

I like listening to music and reading German magazines.



2. A comma is used to separate individual components of a list of three or more items. Note that a comma is optional before the final "and." This final comma is called the Oxford Comma and it's your choice whether you want to use it or not.

I enjoy listening to music, reading German magazines, and doing crossword puzzles.

or

I enjoy listening to music, reading German magazines and doing crossword puzzles.



3. A comma is used on either side of a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, consequently, etc.) only if the adverb is in the middle of one clause and you want to emphasize the words before the adverb.

I cannot, however, read German magazines very quickly.

Commas are used in this example because the first part of the sentence (cannot) is very important.

I however cannot read German magazines very quickly.

Commas are not used in this example because "I" is not important.



4. A comma is only used with subordinate conjunctions (because, although, if, when, etc.) if those conjunctions begin the sentence.

Because I find it relaxing, I listen to music.

When those conjunctions appear in the middle of the sentence, no comma is needed.

I listen to music because I find it relaxing.



5. A comma is used after a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, consequently, etc.) if that adverb appears after a semi colon and the adverb contains more than two syllables or more than one word.

That German magazine was too difficult for me; consequently, I gave up and instead listened to music.

versus

That German magazine was too difficult for me; therefore I gave up and instead listened to music.

versus

That German magazine was too difficult for me; in fact, it was so difficult that I gave up and instead listened to music.



6. A comma is used between adjectives if the order can be scrambled and the conjunction "and" can be inserted between the adjectives.

That is a relaxing, peaceful song.

You can also say That is a peaceful, relaxing song or That is a relaxing and peaceful song so a comma should be used.



7. Commas should be used around nonrestrictive clauses, that is extra information that isn't necessary in a sentence.

Some German magazines, such as Stern and Spiegel, are difficult for me to read.

If the information is necessary, it should not be separated by commas.

The song that I am listening to now is very good.



8. Use commas with dates, addresses, and titles.

I bought that magazine on Thursday, May 25, 2006.

Note that a comma is not needed if only the month and year are present.

I bought that magazine in May 2006.

Commas follow all elements of an address, but they do not appear before a postal code.

He recorded that song when he lived at 69 Orleans Street, Munich, Germany 81667.

A person's title should be surrounded by commas.

Robert Schmidt, Ph.D, wrote that article.



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Semi colons are similar to periods in that they signify a longer break than a comma and in some cases semi colons can be used instead of a period to add greater effect. Like commas, there are many rules that govern the usage of semi colons:

1. Semi colons can be used to separate two independent clauses if they are somehow related.

I enjoy reading German magazines; it's a great way to improve my vocabulary.



2. Semi colons are used before a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, then) when the clauses both before and after the adverb are independent.

The crossword puzzle was a piece of cake; therefore I finished it in ten minutes.



3. Semi colons are used to separate items in a series if there are already commas within the series.

I enjoy doing different things in my free time: listening to music; reading books, German magazines, and local newspapers; going for walks; and working on my web site.



:

The colon is generally used to introduce some kind of list.

I enjoy doing different things in my free time: listening to music; reading books, German magazines, and local newspapers; going for walks; and working on my web site.

It should be noted that the sentence before the colon should be an independent clause. In other words, words such as "are/is" or "of" should never appear directly before a colon.



" "

Quotation marks are used to enclose direct quotations.

Last night my husband said, "This was his most famous song."

'



Apostrophes can be used in a variety of ways:

1. An apostrophe is used to indicate a possessive noun.

That singer's songs are really popular.

2. An apostrophe is used to indicate a possessive indefinite pronoun.

Someone's German magazine is lying on the table.

3. An apostrophe is used to mark contractions.

I can't read German magazines if the language is too difficult.



?

A question mark is used after a direct question.

Do you like reading magazines?



!

An exclamation mark is used to strongly emphasize something.

I took one magazine from my bookshelf and all the others fell out. Bang!