Punctuation is very useful in preventing enormous mix-ups. Lynne Truss says: “Punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language.They tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop”. (85)
Read and compare:
A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing
Charles the First walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off.
Charles the First walked and talked. Half an hour after, his head was cut off.
The Apostrophe indicates
1. Possession: singular nouns and irregular plurals (´s ), plural nouns (` ).
The boy´s hat the boss´s policy the babies´ bibs the children´s playground Bridget Jones´s Diary my parents ´car
1a. With older, foreign or classical (ancient Greek and Roman) words, we just add an apostrophe.
Socrates´ ideas Cervantes´ Don Quixote Guy Fawkes´ night Achilles´ heel
2. Time or quantity
In one week´s time Two weeks´ notice
3. Omission of figures in dates:
The summer of ´78
4. Omission of letters
I´m she´s got he´s I´d rather they can´t you don´t we won´t it doesn´t
5. Plural of letters and numbers
He writes b´s instead of d´s. It happened in the early 1970´s.
Be sure to dot your i´s and cross your t´s.
6. Plural of words which do not normally have plurals:
It seems a good idea, but there are a lot of if´s.
Here are the do´s and don´ts.
7. Irish names
O´Neill and O´Casey
1. It is used to separate items in a series or list.
In a series of just two elements:
It was a long, hot summer.
Her blouse was red and black. (no comma)
In a series of three or more elements separate them by commas. When a conjunction (and, or, but) joins the last two elements, put a comma before the conjunction.
In her will, the woman left jewellery, coins, stocks, but no cash.
2. In non-defining relative clauses:
My daughter, who lives in Lisbon, is a doctor.
1. It is used to join two independent sentences with a closely connected meaning.
Some people work best in the mornings; others do better in the evenings.
2. It is also used to separate items in a list, particularly if they are long and complex.
The company has offices in Lisbon, Portugal; Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; London, England; and Taipei, Taiwan.
1. It is often used before explanations.
We had to abandon our holiday plans: the dates didn´t work out.
2. Use the colon to introduce a list.
We need three kinds of support: economic, political, and moral.
3. Use colons before quotations or before a speech in a dialogue:
In the words of Oscar Wilde: “I can resist anything except temptation”
JULIET: O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
1. Dashes are often used, especially in informal writing, to add afterthoughts.
We had a great time in Disneyworld – the kids really enjoyed it.
Full stop, Question mark
They both come at the end of a sentence. The full stop marks the end of a statement; the question mark the end of a question.
She enjoyed all kinds of fruit.
Who will win the election?
1. An exclamation is followed by an exclamation mark.
What a talented artist Almada Negreiros was!
I can´t stand that noise!
2. An imperative may be followed by an exclamation mark.
Hold that line!
Good, C. Edward. Who´s (oops) Whose Grammar Book Is This Anyway? New York: MJF Books, 2002.
Kinneaavy, James L.,John E. Warriner. Elements of Writing. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1993
Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage .Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986
Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books, 2004.