How to punctuate a sentence

The Unheard Side of Checking Punctuation in Text

When it comes to finding the missing or wrong punctuation marks, then we mostly show some negligence towards it. The important thing for correcting text content is to find all types of flaws in it. These days, we pick any grammar and punctuation app for rectifying the errors in the text work. People should be more conscious while choosing a punctuation app or tool. Apart from the basic punctuation signs, the other less-common symbols must be equally kept in consideration while writing and editing. The less-used punctuation symbols are virgule, underline, ellipsis points, square brackets, etc.

Punctuate This Sentence for Me Online: The Well-Known Punctuation Errors to Know Before

Before asking to punctuate my sentence online free, I must be aware of the major as well as minor flaws. Here are some general mistakes related to the punctuation.

  1. The use of multiple commas in a small sentence unnecessarily.
  2. Using the full stop and question mark together.
  3. Using colon rather than semicolon.
  4. Adding the apostrophe instead of the inverted commas or quotation marks.
  5. Replacing the hyphen with an underscore.

Difference Between Incomplete Sentence, Run on, Comma Splice

If there are independent clauses on both sides of commas, then the sentence is known as a comma splice. When two or more clauses are joined with no conjunctions or punctuation, then it is known as a run on sentence. The sentence without a verb and subject is said to be an incomplete sentence. The other name of the incomplete sentence is Fragment Sentence. You must know about these differences before relying on auto punctuate tool.

How to Correctly Punctuate a Sentence?

There can be numerous ways to punctuate sentence. You can prefer going through the text by yourself or picking up an online tool for the same purpose. Here are ways to spot and rectify punctuation mistakes.

  1. If in doubt, rewrite.
  2. Use a sentence and punctuation checker.
  3. Use commas to indicate non-essential information.
  4. Use a colon to introduce a list only when the introductory text is a complete sentence.
  5. Avoid multiple punctuation at the end of a sentence.

How to punctuate a sentence

This Is How Our Tool Would Help You in Correcting the Punctuation Flaws

Our software is based on numerous features and offering a bundle of solutions for you. From the sentence comma corrector to the colon checker, we have actually developed this app to give you a great experience in punctuation checking. You can use it for free and without any limit of usage. Secondly, the tool is easy to use with no complex procedures. In short, you are going to have a memorable time by having this tool. You are not supposed to download it. Use it online and save your precious time. It also has the complex and compound sentence punctuation checker so that you deal with difficult types of punctuation issues as well. The tool has been designed to give you flawless results. Your manual job is not necessary that ends up wasting numerous hours.

Things You Can’t Miss About Our Online Tool

Whenever you ask to punctuate for me manually, the very first thought that comes in mind is the time required for the entire process. On the other hand, the internet tool can work for you within a few minutes and provides the edited version by spotting even the minor flaws. Here are the best traits and features of our tool that you must know.

  1. It can save your time whether you are a corporate professional or a student.
  2. Thorough checking of the content is performed by this tool.
  3. Offers consistent help online with no need to use a particular page all the time
  4. Provide editing services for different types of text content.
  5. Correct the mistakes other than spotting and highlighting them. This actually sounds great.
  6. Proofread the content after completing punctuate paragraph job.
  7. Works with all types of errors including punctuation, grammar, spelling mistakes and many other types of issues.
  8. Find the plagiarism and turn the content into an original version that won’t be shown as copied.
  9. The best part is that you don’t have to install the English checker and even any of its features or the extension.
  10. It offers quick help that would allow you to spend quality time on some other constructive tasks.
  11. Available for free with no need of paying a cent for any feature. Enjoy free online punctuation checker software.
  12. It is online and you just require the availability of the internet to open and use the program.

Results of Our Accurate Web Punctuation Tool

Post using our tool, you would be able to get the amazing results for checking the content in a variety of ways.

  • A Text with Grammar: The grammar is fixed properly so that you don’t get the document rejected. Our tool is for providing you the text work free from all types of typos and grammatical flaws.
  • Vocabulary: The vocabulary of content would be flawless too. You would find the vocabulary relevant to the requirements and up to the mark too.
  • Punctuation: All types of punctuation flaws are spotted and corrected by the tool as well. The semicolon check, comma corrector and rectifying all other punctuation marks straight away.
  • Spelling: The misspelled words are replaced with the correct ones. Our tool is to provide you the text work that must sound error-free.
  • Plagiarism Checking: In the end, the tool also turns the content which contains any copied words or sentences. You must try this tool for the unforgettable experience of getting your text work checked for similarity. After all, it matters a lot if you mind making a good impression in front of your teacher or boss.

1. Use apostrophes correctly

Maybe it’s because of its diminutive size, but the apostrophe tends to be neglected and misused in equal measure.

The apostrophe is used to form possessives (e.g., the school’s faculty , our family’s crest , the shirt’s collar , Bill Thomas’s house ) and certain contractions (e.g., it’s , let’s , she’s , they’re , I’ve , don’t ).

The apostrophe is not used to form most plurals (e.g., she is looking at several schools , the families have similar crests , these shirts are on sale , we are dining with the Thomases ). There are three exceptions: plurals of lowercase letters (e.g., dot your i’s and cross your t’s ); plurals of certain words used as words (e.g., we need to tally the yes’s, no’s, and maybe’s ); and plurals of certain abbreviations (e.g., the staff includes a dozen Ph.D.’s and four M.D.’s ).

2. Know where to place quotation marks

Periods and commas go inside quotation marks, even if they aren’t part of the material being quoted. All other punctuation marks go outside the quotation marks, unless they are part of the material being quoted.

“Any further delay,” she said, “would result in a lawsuit.”

His latest story is titled “The Beginning of the End”; wouldn’t a better title be “The End of the Beginning”?

3. Know how to punctuate with parentheses

When a parenthetical element is included at the end of a larger sentence, the terminal punctuation for the larger sentence goes outside the closing parenthesis.

When a parenthetical sentence exists on its own, the terminal punctuation goes inside the closing parenthesis.

She nonchalantly told us she would be spending her birthday in Venice (Italy, not California). (Unfortunately, we weren’t invited.)

4. Use a hyphen for compound adjectives

When two or more words collectively serve as an adjective before the word they are modifying, those words should normally be hyphenated. The major exception is when the first such word is an adverb ending in -ly.

The hastily arranged meeting came on the heels of less-than-stellar earnings.

5. Distinguish between the colon and the semicolon

The colon and the semicolon can both be used to connect two independent clauses.

When the second clause expands on or explains the first, use a colon. When the clauses are merely related, but the second does not follow from the first, use a semicolon.

Only a third of Americans have a passport; the majority of Canadians have a passport.

Only a third of Americans have a passport: for most, foreign travel is either undesirable or unaffordable.

6. Avoid multiple punctuation at the end of a sentence

Never end a sentence with a question mark or exclamation point followed by a period. If a sentence ends with a period that is part of an abbreviation, do not add a second period.

I don’t particularly like the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I didn’t like it even when I worked at Yahoo!

I especially didn’t like it when I saw it at 5:00 a.m.

7. Use a colon to introduce a list only when the introductory text is a complete sentence

Not all lists should be introduced with a colon. The general rule is that if the introductory text can stand as a grammatically complete sentence, use a colon; otherwise, do not.

Please bring the following items: a flashlight, a comfortable pair of hiking boots, and a jacket.

Please bring the typical evening hiking gear: a flashlight, a comfortable pair of hiking boots, and a jacket.

Please bring a flashlight, a comfortable pair of hiking boots, and a jacket.

Please bring : a flashlight, a comfortable pair of hiking boots, and a jacket.

8. Use commas to indicate nonessential information

If explanatory matter can be omitted without changing the general meaning of the sentence, it should be set off with commas. If the explanatory matter is essential to the meaning of the sentence, do not set it off with commas.

The novelist Don DeLillo seldom gives interviews.

The novelist , Don DeLillo , seldom gives interviews.

Explanation: The identity of the specific novelist is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Otherwise, there is nothing to indicate which of the multitude of novelists is being referred to.

America’s first president, George Washington, served from 1789 to 1797.

Explanation: America has only one first president. Identifying him by name is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

America’s first president George Washington served from 1789 to 1797.

9. Use a dictionary

Is it U.S.A. or USA? Co-worker or coworker? Lets or let’s? Teachers’ college or teachers college? Though these examples implicate punctuation marks (the use or omission of periods, hyphens, or apostrophes), the correct form can be easily determined with a good dictionary.

10. If in doubt, rewrite

The easiest way to solve a vexing punctuation problem is to avoid it. If you aren’t sure how to properly punctuate a sentence⁠—or if the proper punctuation results in a convoluted, confusing, or inelegant sentence⁠—rewrite it. Perhaps as more than one sentence.

An ellipsis is a set of three periods ( . . . ) indicating an omission. Each period should have a single space on either side, except when adjacent to a quotation mark, in which case there should be no space.

Informal writing

In informal writing, an ellipsis can be used to represent a trailing off of thought.

If only she had . . . Oh, it doesn’t matter now.

An ellipsis can also indicate hesitation, though in this case the punctuation is more accurately described as suspension points.

I wasn’t really . . . well, what I mean . . . see, the thing is . . . I didn’t mean it.

Like the exclamation point, the ellipsis is at risk of overuse.

In quoted material

Ellipses are most useful when working with quoted material. There are various methods of deploying ellipses; the one described here is acceptable for most professional and scholarly work.

The following examples are based on a paragraph from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Ellipses at the beginning of a quotation

It is rarely necessary to use ellipsis points at the beginning of a quotation, even if the quotation begins mid-sentence. It is also usually acceptable to change the capitalization of the first word of the quotation to match the surrounding material. (When a change in capitalization must be acknowledged, you should use brackets, as explained here.)

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,” writes Thoreau, “he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Moreover, Thoreau claims that “in proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex.”

Quotations placed in the middle of a sentence

When a quotation is included within a larger sentence, do not use ellipsis points at the beginning or end of the quoted material, even if the beginning or end of the original sentence has been omitted.

When Thoreau argues that by simplifying one’s life, “the laws of the universe will appear less complex,” he introduces an idea explored at length in his subsequent writings.

When Thoreau argues that by simplifying one’s life, “ ⁠. . . the laws of the universe will appear less complex, . . .⁠ ” he introduces an idea explored at length in his subsequent writings.

Quotations placed at the end of a sentence

When a quotation is placed at the end of a sentence, but the quoted material is only part of a larger sentence, authorities differ on the use of ellipsis points. The Chicago Manual of Style allows the use of a sentence-terminating period; the MLA Handbook requires ellipsis points.

Thoreau argues that by simplifying one’s life, “the laws of the universe will appear less complex.”

Could anyone other than Thoreau have written, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost”?

MLA style places the sentence-terminating period immediately after the last word of the quotation, even though a period does not occur there in the original material. The three ellipsis points are then placed after this sentence-terminating period.

Thoreau argues that by simplifying one’s life, “the laws of the universe will appear less complex. . . .”

Could anyone other than Thoreau have written, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost . . .”?

When using MLA-style parenthetical references, the sentence-terminating period is placed outside the parenthetical reference.

Thoreau argues that by simplifying one’s life, “the laws of the universe will appear less complex . . .” (152).

Ellipses for omitted material within a single quoted sentence

Use ellipsis points to show omission within the quotation. Omit any punctuation on either side of the ellipsis, unless the punctuation is necessary to make the shortened quotation grammatically correct.

“I learned this . . . : that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, . . . he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

In the example above, the colon in the original is needed to introduce the thing that Thoreau learned. The comma after “dreams” is necessary to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause.

Ellipses for omitted material spanning two or more sentences

When a quotation is presented as a single sentence made up of material from two or more original sentences, ellipses should be used for all omitted segments.

Thoreau believes that “if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, . . . he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.”

When quoted material is presented as multiple sentences, four dots should be used for omissions between two or more original sentences; three dots should be used for omissions within a single original sentence.

In the example below, MLA style requires an ellipsis at the end of the quotation, indicating that a portion of the original sentence has been omitted. Chicago style would omit the final ellipsis and terminate the sentence with a single period.

Thoreau notes: “I learned . . . that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, . . . he will meet with . . . success. . . . He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary. . . . In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex. . . .”

A quick guide to sculpting language.

How to punctuate a sentence

Today in Poets on Medium, Laura Manipura asked about punctuation and poetry. So I thought that I would give my own quick primer.

There are a lot of rules about how to use standard English punctuation. Most of it is fairly wonky and relatively annoying, but it all serves the purpose of making things clear. There are some obvious examples of how punctuation aids in that:

  • Let’s eat grandma.
  • Let’s eat, grandma.

I could go full-on English teacher and explain all of this in technical language, but you understand the difference between these two sentences, right? The first sentence implies that it’s the grandmother being eaten, while the second is inviting the grandmother to eat.

All of that hangs on a simple comma. The entire meaning of a sentences hinges on a little smudge of ink. This has come up in arguments over the United States Constitution which is, you know, not a document where you want a great deal of ambiguity.

You all are going to think that I’m bat-shit crazy, but one of the things that really helped me understand this was sentence diagramming. It’s difficult as hell, but it really helps you see how all of the words connect to each other, how they all play off of each other.

Anyway, all of this is to say that the first rule of punctuating poetry is clarity: you want the meaning of your words to be clear.

Once you get beyond the issue of clarity, however, poetry can play fast and loose with the technical rules of punctuation in order to regulate where pauses are taken while reading, and how long and complete they are.

Think of it in terms of driving speed.

A comma is a speed bump in the middle of a thought. It tells you to slow down, to give a little pause in your speech because you’re transitioning to a new clause. It’s not a completely new idea, but it’s a transition of sorts.

Capital letters, semi-colons, dashes, and line breaks are (in ascending order) slightly bigger speed-bumps. They require more consideration, a heftier slow-down.

A period is a stop sign. Full stop. Not like we do in Southern California, but an actual full stop.

A stanza break is a red light. It takes a moment or two for the light to change; it’s a slightly larger pause. You’re moving on to a new collection of ideas.

If this paragraph was a poem and i wanted to go at breakneck speed i would stop using any punctuation at all and let the words run into each other one after another you might even notice that i stop capitalizing the letter i because even that indicates the beginning of a new thought in other words it tells you to stop and pay attention but by continuing to write without punctuation like this i can put a whole lot of words ideas images into your head one after the other and as long as nothing that i say has its meaning dependent on punctuation like eating grandma i can continue to hammer one concept after another into your head at a breakneck speed.

And then. You stop. You catch your breath.

This. Is. Poetry. You. Can. Break. These. Rules.

Isn’t punctuation fun?

It’s a thing in old-timey poetry.

Let’s consider Mr. Shakespeare:

The little Love-god lying once asleep
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vow’d chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warm’d;
And so the general of hot desire
Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm’d.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy
For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall,
Came there for cure, and this by that I prove,
Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love. (Sonnet CLIV)

Capitalizing the first letter of each line in old poetry is so standard that it’s almost seen as a rule. Something that has to be done.

But it isn’t. It’s a tool like any other.

Notice that each line contains its own thought. And going back to a capital letter at the beginning of each line hammers home that you’re beginning a new thought, a new idea.

To use the metaphor we used before, it’s like putting an extra speed bump at each line break. It’s a longer, more significant pause.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Read both of these poems out loud and notice how differently they flow! Maggie Smith’s poem doesn’t have the same double speedbump at the front of every line. Instead, the thoughts flow smoothly from one line over the other. It’s sinuous. It’s serpentine. It’s less rigid than the Shakespeare.

If you were working on your poetry MFA, you would say that she employs enjambment to great effect.

The question isn’t what are the rules, but, rather, what effect do I want to create and how can I use punctuation to create that?

Zach J. Payne is, to borrow the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive Payne”. He is a thespian, poet, and writer for young adults. He is the #2 Ninja Writer . A native of Whittier, CA, he currently lives in Warren, PA.

Correct My Punctuation

When it comes to using correct sentence checker there are a few different things that you have to consider, but one that people often struggle with, and can be difficult to get a handle on, is punctuation. This is because of the technical nature of punctuation, as you need to have deep knowledge of all punctuation rules to avoid errors. These are the aspects of writing that people struggle with the most, the formal parts that require meticulous awareness and in-depth knowledge, and they are the kind of things that can harm the overall quality of your writing and harm what you’re trying to communicate. Still, there are the tools that you use to put sentences together, to separate clauses, and to provide the proper structure for your sentences. With the help of a good grammatically correct sentence checker, you can forget about your grammar nightmares and do what you like instead of editing all of your texts.

Automatic Sentence Punctuation Corrector

Punctuation is one of the easiest things to make a mistake with, and it’s also very easy to miss a mistake when it comes to punctuation usage. If you don’t have intricate knowledge about the workings of sentences and clauses then it can be tough to deal with, but our sentence punctuation corrector is here to help! We programmed our punctuation sentence corrector to provide you with an easily accessible way to make your life easier and your writing better. Now you don’t have to spend all your time to get your punctuation right, and you never have to settle for less than high quality and effective sentence punctuation. You can just head over to our site, paste your text into the run-on sentence checker and the job is done!

The sentence punctuation corrector online can help you with:

  • Comma splices
  • Misplaced commas
  • Wrong colon and semicolon usage
  • Confused dashes and hyphens
  • Missing full stop
  • Run on sentences
  • Wrong punctuation in quotations
  • Apostrophe misuse

How to punctuate a sentence

Never Forget These 5 Rules to Punctuate Your Sentence Correctly

  • Don’t forget about commas after introductory elements
  • Always separate the items in a list using a comma. You can also put Oxford comma to make the list less confusing and more readable
  • Put a comma before a coordinating conjunction if it joins complete sentences.
  • Put semicolon if you join complete sentences without any coordinating conjunction.
  • If the second clause is needed to explain and clarify the first clause, join them with a colon.

It’s Now Easier Than Ever to Check a Sentence for Correct Punctuation!

Where can I correct my punctuation? Is this a sentence fragment checker is here to answer this question and help with punctuation issues 24/7. We know how tough punctuation often is to deal with, and we know how valuable it can be to your overall efforts and the effectiveness of your writing, and we’re here to help!

  • Home
  • About
  • Contact
  • Topics
    • Idea Generation
    • Grammar
    • Organization
    • Citation Styles
    • Plagiarism
    • Online Tools and Websites
    • Writing Tips
    • Inspiration
    • Critical Thinking
    • Free Web Fiction
    • Miscellaneous
  • Buy Me a Coffee

Connect With Me

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to Use i.e. and e.g.

For abbreviations that are so commonly used, i.e. and e.g. cause massive problems for both readers and writers.

I.e. stands for id est, which is Latin for “that is.” You use it wherever you would use the words “that is” in a sentence. In the following examples, you could replace “i.e.” with “that is” and the sentences would still be correct.

I am the big cheese, i.e., the boss.

I am eating the fruit I like the best, i.e., the avocado.

E.g. stands for exempli gratia, which is Latin for “for the sake of an example.” You use it wherever you would use the words “for example” in a sentence. Just as for i.e., you could replace “e.g.” with “for example” in the following sentences and they would still be correct.

I think small dog breeds, e.g., the Chihuahua, are cute and I can’t wait to get one.

Important Japanese buildings, e.g., Tokyo Tower, usually get blown up in post-apocalyptic animes.

Brian Klem from The Writer’s Digest suggests a couple of clever mnemonics to help you use this troublesome duo correctly.

To burn these definitions into your memory and help remind you which letter-abbreviation pairs with which definition, you can follow this mnemonic device a college friend once taught me: i.e. is “in essence” while e.g. is “eggs sample.”

Correctly Punctuating i.e. and e.g.

The periods that are part of i.e. and e.g. tend to mess people up when it comes to punctuation. The easiest way to remember how to correctly punctuate these abbreviations is to pretend they are the words “that is” and “for example” and then punctuate them accordingly.

Take these sentences, for example:

Sam drinks hard liquor, e.g., whiskey, and therefore has a high alcohol tolerance.

Sam drinks hard liquor, for example, whiskey, and therefore has a high alcohol tolerance.

My favorite opera will always be the one I was named after, i.e., Bizet’s Carmen.

My favorite opera will always be the one I was named after, that is, Bizet’s Carmen.

Punctuating Compound Sentences

A compound sentence is a sentence with two or more independent clauses.

There are correct ways and incorrect ways to link independent clauses.

Let�s look at the correct ways first.

Solving equations is useful, but studying grammar is fun .

(The linking word is “but.” A comma precedes the linking word.)

Simple sentences contain one clause, and compound sentences contain at least two .

(The linking word is “and.” A comma precedes the linking word.)

These linking words have names. They are called coordinating conjunctions . Sadly, nobody cares. It�s just too many syllables to remember.

That being the case, I call them short linkers . Thankfully, there are only seven of them.


Note that if you arrange these guys right, the first letters spell “fanboys.”

When two independent clauses are joined by a short linker, put a comma in front of that linker.

However, sometimes independent clauses are joined by longer linking words.

Some students can remember the coordinating conjunctions; however, others can only remember their favorite pizza toppings .

(The linking word is “however.” Note that a semicolon precedes it and a comma follows it.)

Grading tests is depressing; consequently, some teachers drink heavily before doing it.

(Again, note the semicolon before the linking word and the comma after it.)

These long linking words are called conjunctive adverbs . Once again, most folks can�t remember that and don�t care to. That being the case, I call them ” long linkers .”

Some common long linkers are:

I can recite lists of coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs any time of the day or night; therefore, I am idolized by my students .

(Again, note the semicolon before the long linker and the comma after.)

When two independent clauses are joined by a long linker, put a semicolon in front of that linker and a comma behind it.

There is a third way to punctuate compound sentences.

To study math is a treat; to study grammar is a thrill.

(Note the absence of a linking word and the use of a semicolon.)

I like to read; my wife likes to talk.

(Again, note the use of a semicolon.)

Two independent clauses may be linked only by a semicolon.

When only a semicolon is used to link independent clauses, make sure the clauses are thoroughly parallel in structure and word choice.

October days are often beautiful; November days often aren�t.

(Note that these clauses contain the same verbs (“are”) and the same subjects (“days”). They also contain the adverb “often.” These create symmetry and justify the use of a semicolon.)

Let�s shift gears for a moment and consider some common errors.



Math is a pain grammar is worse.

(Note the absence of a linking word and punctuation.)

The example above is a fused sentence . A fused sentence occurs when two independent clauses are smooshed together with no punctuation and no linking word.

Math is a pain, grammar is worse.

(This is a little better. At least we have something between the independent clauses, but it�s not enough.)

The example above is a comma splice . A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined together with a comma but no linking word.

Math is a pain and grammar is worse.

(Now we have a linking word but no punctuation.)

The example above is a run-on . A run-on occurs when two independent clauses are joined together with a linking word but no punctuation.

Some folks (mainly those with degrees in grammatical pickiness) are intent upon identifying the above errors precisely.

In truth (please don�t tell anybody), I just call them all run-ons and forget about it. Doing so frees up more space in my brain to remember baseball statistics.

A Final Word of Caution:

Remember that everything we�ve said above applies only to independent clauses . “Short linkers” and “long linkers” often occur in other contexts.

We learn some lessons in the classroom and others in the dorm.

(Note the absence of a comma before “and.” It doesn�t link independent clauses, so we don�t put a comma in front of it.)

Dorm lessons, however, can be just as useful as classroom lessons.

(We don�t have a semicolon before “however” because it isn�t linking independent clauses.)

Journalism 30

How to punctuate

By Russell Baker
The New York Times

When you write, you make a sound in the reader’s head. It can be a dull mumble — that’s why so much government prose makes you sleepy — or it can be a joyful noise, a sly whisper, a throb of passion.

Listen to a voice trembling in a haunted room:

“And the sulken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before…”

That’s Edgar Allan Poe, a master. Few of us can make paper speak as vividly as Poe could, but even beginners will write better once they start listening to the sound their writing makes.

One of the most important tools for making paper speak in your own voice is punctuation.

When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly — with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow.

In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard.

‘Gee, Dad, have I got
to learn all them rules?’

Don’t let rules scare you. For they aren’t hard and fast. Think of them as guidelines.

Am I saying, “Go ahead and punctuate as you please”? Absolutely not. Use your own common sense, remembering that you can’t expect readers to work to decipher what you’re trying to say.

There are two basic systems of punctuation:
1. The loose or open system, which tries to capture the way body language punctuates talk.

2. The tight, closed structural system, which hews closely to the sentence’s grammatical structure.

Most writers use a little of both. In any case, we use much less punctuation than they used 200 or even 50 years ago.
(Glance into Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first published in 1776, for an example of the tight structure system at its most elegant.)

No matter which system you prefer, be warned: Punctuation marks cannot save a sentence that is badly put together. If you have to struggle over commas, semicolons, dashes, you’ve probably built a sentence that’s never going to fly, no matter how you tinker with it. Throw it away and build a new one to a simpler design. The better your sentence, the easier it is to punctuate.

Choosing the right tool

There are 30 main punctuation marks, but you’ll need fewer than a dozen for most writing.

I can’t show you in this small space how they all work, so I’ll stick to the most important — and even then can only hit the highlights. For more details, check your dictionary or a good grammar book.


This is the most widely used mark of all. It’s also the toughest and most controversial. I’ve seen aging editors almost come to blows over the comma. If you can it without sweating, the others will be easy. Here’s my policy:

1. Use a comma after a long introductory phrase or clause: After stealing the crown jewels from the Tower of London, I went home for tea.

2. If the introductory material is short, forget the comma: After the theft I went home for tea.

3. But use it if the sentence would be confusing without it, like this: The day before I’d robbed the Bank of England.

4. Use a comma to separate elements in a series. I robbed the Denver Mint, the Bank of England, the Tower of London and my piggy bank.

Notice there is not comma before and in the series. This is common style nowadays, but some publishers use a comma there, too.

5. Use a comma to separate independent clauses that are joined by a conjunction like and, but, for, or, nor, because or so: I shall return the crown jewels, for they are too heavy to wear.

6. Use a comma to set off a mildly parenthetical word or grouping that isn’t essential to the sentence: Girls, who have always interested me, usually differ from boys.

Do not use commas if the word grouping is essential to the sentence’s meaning: Girls who interested me know how to tango.

7. Use a comma in direct address: Your majesty, please hand over the crown.

8. And between proper names and titles: Montague Sneed, director of Scotland Yar, was assigned the case.

9. And to separate elements of geographical address: Director Sneed comes from Skokie, Ill., and now lives in London, England.

Generally speaking, use a comma where you’d pause briefly in speech. For a long pause or completion of thought, use a period.

If you confuse the comma with the period, you’ll get a run-on sentence: The Bank of England is in London, I rushed right over to rob it.


A more sophisticated mark than the comma, the semicolon separates two main clauses, but it keeps those two thoughts more tightly linked than a period can: I steal crown jewels; she steals hearts.

Dash and parentheses

Warning! Use sparingly. The dash SHOUTS. Parenthesis whisper. Shout too often, people stop listening; whisper too much, people become suspicious of you.

The dash creates a dramatic pause to prepare for an expression needing strong emphasis: I’ll marry you — if you’ll rob Topkapi with me.

Parentheses help you pause quietly to drop in some chatty information not vital to your story: Despite Betty’s daring spirit (“I love robbing your piggy bank, ” she often said) , she was a terrible dancer.

Quotation marks

These tell the reader you are reciting the exact words someone said or wrote: Betty said, I can’t tango.” Or: “I can’t tango,” Betty said.

Notice the comma comes before the quote marks in the first example, but comes inside them in the second.

Never mind. Do it that way anyhow.


A colon is a tip-off to get ready for what’s next: a list, a long quotation or an explanation. This article is riddled with colons. Too many, maybe, but the message is: “Stay on your toes; it’s coming at you.”


The big headache is with possessive nouns. If the noun is singular, add ‘s: I hated Betty’s tango.

If the noun is plural, simply add an apostrophe after the s: Those are the girls’ coats.

The same applies for singular nouns ending in s, like boss: My boss’s favorite author is Dickens.

And in the plural: This is the Dickenses’ cottage.

Keep Cool

You know about ending a sentence with a period or question mark. Do it. Sure, you can also end with an exclamation point, but must you?

Usually it just makes you sound breathless and silly. Make your writing generate its own excitement
Filling the newspaper with . won’t make up for what your writing has failed to do.

Too many exclamation points make me think the writer is talking about the panic in his own head.

Don’t sound panicky. End with a period. I am serious. A period.

Well…sometimes a question mark is OK.

(Source: Richard Roth, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University)

Punctuation within sentences can be tricky; however, if you know just a few of the following rules, you will be well on your way to becoming a polished writer and proofreader.

Rule: Use a comma between two long independent clauses when conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, nor connect them.
Example: I have painted the entire house, but she is still working on sanding the floors.

Rule: If the clauses are both short, you may omit the comma.
Example: I painted and he sanded.

Rule: If you have only one clause (one subject and verb pair), you won’t usually need a comma in front of the conjunction.
Example: I have painted the house but still need to sand the floors.
This sentence has two verbs but only one subject, so it has only one clause.

Rule: Use the semicolon if you have two independent clauses connected without a conjunction.
Example: I have painted the house; I still need to sand the floors.

Rule: Also use the semicolon when you already have commas within a sentence for smaller separations, and you need the semicolon to show bigger separations.
Example: We had a reunion with family from Salt Lake City, Utah; Los Angeles, California; and Albany, New York.

Rule: A colon is used to introduce a second sentence that clarifies the first sentence.
Example: We have set this restriction: do your homework before watching television.
Notice that the first word of the second sentence is not capitalized. If, however, you have additional sentences following the sentence with the colon and they explain the sentence prior to the colon, capitalize the first word of all the sentences following the colon.

Rule: Use a colon to introduce a list when no introductory words like namely, for instance, i.e., e.g. precede the list.
Example: I need four paint colors: blue, gray, green, and red.

If you wish to respond to another reader’s question or comment, please click its corresponding “REPLY” button. If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the “Comment” box at the bottom of this page.