End marks signal the end or conclusion of a
sentence, word, or phrase. There are three
end marks:
The period (.)
The question mark (?)
The exclamation mark (!)
A period indicates the end of a sentence or the
end of an abbreviation.
Rule: Use periods to end declarative sentences
– statements of fact or opinion.
This is a beautiful park.
Rule: Use a period to end most imperative
sentences – sentences that give directions or
Finish reading the chapter.
Rule: Use a period to end a sentence that
contains an indirect question.
An indirect question restates a question in a
declarative sentence. It does not give the
speaker’s exact words.
Mae asked me if I could stay.
Rule: Use a period after most abbreviations and initials.
Gov. Christie
Ms. Large
Spruce Rd.
36 in.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
E.B. White
Jonas F. Sterlacci
Note: When a sentence ends with an abbreviation that requires a
period, you do not need to put two periods.
Be sure to include Jack Jenkins, Jr.
You do not need to use periods with acronyms,
words formed with first (or first few) letters of
a series of words.
USA – United States of America
A question mark follows a word, phrase, or
sentence that asks a question.
Rule: Use a question mark after an
interrogative sentence – one that asks a direct
Do snakes hatch from eggs?
Would you like to come over?
Sometimes a single word or brief phrase is
used to ask a direct question. This type of
question is punctuated as though it were a
complete sentence because the words that
are left out are easily understood.
Rule: Use a question mark after a word or
phrase that asks a question.
Many small birds build false nests. Why?
Let’s meet for lunch. Where?
Use an exclamation mark to end a word, phrase, or sentence that shows
strong emotion.
Look at that huge vulture!
Watch out!
Rule: Use an exclamation mark after an imperative sentence that gives a
forceful or urgent command.
Don’t spill the water!
Let’s go!
While imperative sentences with forceful commands often end with an
exclamation marks, mild imperatives should end with a period.
Please sit down.
Go to the store for me tomorrow.
Rule: Use an exclamation mark after an
interjection that expresses strong emotion.
Wow! That was a great throw.
Oh! Look what I found.
Exclamation marks should not be used too
often. Overusing them reduces their
emotional effect and makes writing less
End marks (like periods) signal a full stop.
Commas signal a brief pause. A comma may
be used to separate elements in a sentence or
to set off part of a sentence. Include a comma
in your writing when you want your reader to
group information in your sentence.
A compound sentence consists of two or more
main or independent clauses that are joined
by a coordinating conjunction, such as and,
but, for, nor, or, so, or yet.
Rule: Use a comma before the conjunction to
separate two main or independent clauses in
a compound sentence.
Chimpanzees are full grown at age five, but
their mothers still take care of them.
Use a comma before a conjunction ONLY when there are complete
sentences on both sides of the conjunction. If the conjunction joins
single words, phrases, or subordinate clauses, do not use a comma.
Single Words
Right: Heat and sand are common desert features.
Wrong: Heat, and sand are common desert features.
Right: Teri likes both green apples and red apples.
Wrong: Teri likes both green apples, and red apples.
Subordinate Clauses
Right: They have decided that you should study more and that they will
check on you.
Wrong: They have decided that you should study more, and that they will
check on you.
In some compound sentences, the main
clauses are very brief and the meaning is
clear. When this occurs, the comma before
the conjunction does not need to be there.
Jon listened carefully but he heard nothing.
A comma splice occurs when two or more
sentences have been joined with only a comma
between them. They are not good. Avoid them at
all costs.
To avoid comma splices, make sure all of your
ideas are properly linked.
WRONG: The snow clumped on the trees, many
branches snapped under its weight.
RIGHT: The snow clumped on the trees. Many
branches snapped under its weight.
Sometimes, a sentence lists a number of single
words or groups of words. When three or more of
these items are listed, the list is called a series.
Separate the items in a series with commas.
A comma must follow each of the items except for
the last one in the series. The conjunction and or
or is added after the last comma.
The desert animals included camels, toads, gerbils,
and insects.
The treasure map directed them over the dunes,
into the oasis, and past the palm tree.
There are two exceptions to this rule. If each item
except the last one in a series is followed by a
conjunction, do not use commas.
I visited castles and museums and forts.
Also, do not use a comma to separate groups of
words that are considered to be one item.
Every table in the diner was set with a knife and a
fork, a cup and a saucer, and salt and pepper.
Sometimes, two or more adjectives are placed before the
noun they describe.
RULE: Use commas to separate adjectives of equal ranks.
There are two ways to tell whether adjectives in a sentence
are of equal rank:
1. If the word and can be placed between the adjectives
without changing the meaning, they are of equal rank.
2. If the order of the adjectives can be changed, they are of
equal rank.
A smooth, round stone was cupped in her hand.
RULE: Do not use commas to separate adjectives
that must appear in a specific order.
If adding and or changing the order of the
adjectives would cause the sentence to not make
sense, you do not need commas.
Right: It will take three brief hours to reach the
Wrong: It will take three, brief hours to reach the
RULE: Do not use a comma to separate the last
adjective in a series from the noun it
Right: A large, gentle camel stood by the road.
Wrong: A large, gentle, camel stood by the
Rule: When a sentence begins with an introductory
word, phrase, or other structure, that word or
phrase is usually separated from the rest of the
sentence by a comma.
Hey, give me your camera quickly.
Tommy, where are you?
To conserve water, some plants drop their leaves.
With Mark gone, Jake didn’t know how he would
get home.
Although the alarm had gone off, the police arrived
too late.
When a prepositional phrase of two words
begins a sentence, a comma is not always
In July we go to the lake.
At night we heard the crickets.
A parenthetical expression is a word or phrase that is not essential
to the meaning of a sentence. These words or phrases generally
add extra information to a basic sentence.
Rule: Use commas to set off parenthetical expressions from the
rest of the sentence.
Parenthetical expressions in the middle of sentences require two
commas. When at the end of a sentence, they only require one.
Listen carefully, Jimmy, while I explain.
Your answer is incorrect, however.
They believe in her ability, of course.
These flowers, not those, are ready to be picked.
To determine if a phrase or clause should be
set off with commas, decide whether the
phrase or clause is essential or nonessential
to the meaning of the sentence. Nonessential
expressions can be left out without changing
the meaning of the sentence.
Use commas to set off nonessential
expressions from the main clause.
Appositives are phrases that tell more about a
noun or pronoun.
Sahara, a 1943 movie, takes place in North
Participial Phrases
Participles are separate verb phrases that can
be arranged into phrases set off by commas.
Pat, waiting in the van, asked us to hurry.
Adjectival Clauses
Adjective phrases that add information about a
person, place, or thing can also be set off by
We cheered enthusiastically for Darius, who
could lead us to the playing field.
Commas are used to prevent dates from being unclear.
RULE: When a date is made up of three or more parts, each
part gets a comma, except for the month when followed
by the day.
On July 12, 1979, Aunt Mei arrived in America.
Tuesday, March 18 was carefully circled on the calendar.
When a date contains only a month and a year, commas are
not necessary.
I will graduate in June 2015.
Most of the storms we experience in February 2014 dropped
a lot of snow.
Rule: When a geographical name is made up of
a city and a state, use a comma after each
They lived in Marietta, Georgia for several years
and then moved to Sarasota, Florida.
Mari went to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to visit the
art galleries.
Numbers of one hundred or less and numbers made up of
two words (like three thousand) are generally spelled out
in words. Large numbers (ex: 8,463) are written in
numerals. Commas make large numbers easier to read.
Rule: With large numbers of four or more digits, count from
the right and add a comma to the left of every third digit.
2,532 bricks
749,000 birds
A population of 1,806,421
Rule: Use commas with three or more numbers in a series.
Read pages 123, 124, and 125 carefully.
Rule: Do not use commas with ZIP codes,
telephone numbers, page numbers, years,
serial numbers, or house numbers.
My ZIP code is 07083.
The number you need is (908) 867-5309.
The answer is on page 2105.
It is the year 2015.
The serial number you are looking for is 402
36 3113.
I live at 2201 Morrison Avenue.
Commas are also used in addresses, the salutations (or greetings)
of friendly letters, and the closings of letters.
Rule: Use a comma after each item in an address made up of two
or more parts (except for between the state and ZIP code).
She is writing to Helen Hughes, 1500 Main Street, Faketown, New
Jersey 00700.
On an envelope or in a letter, you only need a comma between the
town and state.
Mr. Sterlacci
1000 Caldwell Avenue
Union, New Jersey 07083
Rule: Use a comma after a salutation in a
personal letter and after the closing in all
Dear Shawn,
Commas are also used to separate direct
quotations from other phrases in a sentence.
Rule: Use commas to set off direct quotations
from the rest of a sentence.
Bret said, “Hold the door open.”
“I can’t,” Lara replied, “because my arms are
What is a semicolon?
A semicolon (;) joins two independent clauses and
signals a longer pause than a comma.
Sometimes two independent clauses are so closely
connected that they make up a single sentence,
rather than two separate sentences.
Rule: Use a semicolon to join related independent
clauses that are not joined by the conjunctions
and, or, nor, for, but, so, or yet.
The fire began with a tossed match.
Jamestown began to burn.
The fire began with a tossed match; all of Jamestown
began to burn.
A semicolon should only be used when there is a close
relationship between the two independent clauses. If
they are not very closely related, they need to be
written as two separate sentences OR joined with a
You can also combine sentences with three or
more independent clauses with semicolons.
The birds vanished; the sky grew dark; the
pond was still.
Semicolons help writers show how their ideas connect. Rule:
Semicolons can be used in conjunction with conjunctive
adverbs (adverbs that act as conjunctions) or transitions to
show a strong relationship between separate thoughts.
Conjunctive adverbs: also, besides, consequently, first,
furthermore, however, indeed, instead, moreover,
nevertheless, otherwise, second, then, therefore, thus
Transitional expressions: as a result, at this time, for
instance, in fact, on the other hand, that is
We were impressed with Martin’s knowledge of history;
indeed, he was very well informed about Europe in the
Rule: Semicolons are also used in series when
one or more item has a comma in it.
The fans, cheering; the band, playing loudly;
and the cheerleaders, yelling, helped inspire
the team to play well.
Three important dates to remember in
American history are July 4, 1776; December
7, 1941; and February 10, 1984.
What is a colon?
A colon (:) is used to introduce lists of items
and also is used in certain special situations.
Rule: use a colon after an independent clause
to introduce a list of items.
Some orchids only grow in the following
countries: Brazil, Costa Rica, and Peru.
Rule: In most cases, you should not put a colon
after a verb, and you should never put one
after a preposition.
WRONG: Veronica always orders: soup, salad,
and dessert.
RIGHT: Veronica always orders soup, salad, and
Rule: Colons should also be used to introduce
long or formal quotations.
The sign clearly states the law: “Dogs within
the park boundaries must wear a leash at all
Separating hours and minutes
The time is 3:15 P.M.
After a salutation in a formal letter
To Whom It May Concern:
On Warnings and Labels
Warning: Thin Ice!
Note: Don’t Annoy Mr.
Quotation marks (“ ”) identify the spoken or written
words of others. A direct quotation is a person’s
exact speech or thoughts. An indirect quotation
reports a person’s general meaning.
Both types of quotation are fine when you are
writing. Direct quotations, however, result in a
livelier writing style.
Rule: Put direct quotations in quotation marks.
Kate said, “Williamsburg had the first theater.”
“Where is the key?” asked Caroline.
Rule: Indirect quotations do not require
quotation marks.
Margo said that she would take the dog out.
Don wondered why the president hadn’t called
him with the results.
Commas help you set off introductory
information so that the reader understands
who is speaking. Writers usually identify a
speaker with words and phrases like ‘he
asked’ or ‘she said.’ They can introduce,
conclude, or interrupt a quotation.
Rule: With an introductory expression, place a
comma after it and then write the quotation as if
it were a full sentence.
The guide explained, “All historical buildings
should be treated with respect.”
If an introductory expression is very long, use a
colon instead of a comma.
At the end of the practice, Sarah spoke of her
dreams: “I hope to be able to complete a
marathon by senior year.”
Rule: With a concluding expression, write the
quotation as a full sentence ending with a
comma, a question mark, or an exclamation
mark inside the quotation mark.
“Could you show us one of the houses?”
interrupted Barney.
Rule: With an interrupting expression, place a
comma at the end of the first part of the
quotation and a comma after the interrupting
“What would we have done,” asked Corrina, “if
we had lived in the path of the tornado?”
You do not need to capitalize the second part
of the sentence in a divided quotation.
Rule: Commas and periods should always be inside
the quotation marks. Question marks and
exclamation marks should be if the quotation is a
question or exclamation; otherwise, the mark
should be on the outside.
Joe asked, “Didn’t I already clean the room?”
Did he say, “You have wasted your entire day”?
Johnny protested loudly, “I helped clean it!”
I can’t believe he said, “I like taking tests”!
Double quotation marks (“ ”) are used for main
quotations. Single quotation marks (‘ ’) are
used for quotations inside of quotations.
“Did you mean to say, ‘That’s my cat,’ or
‘That’s my hat’?” Lori asked.
The rules for quotations are otherwise
Sometimes when we used direct quotations,
information needs to be added to make
things clearer. We use brackets ([ ]) to tell the
reader that information came from someone
“We [the students of Center Middle School]
wish to express our support of the student
When writing a story, it is often necessary to
use dialogue, or conversation between two or
more people.
Rule: When writing dialogue, be sure to indent
a new paragraph every time the speaker
Use quotation marks to enclose the titles of
short written works or works that are part of
a bigger collection.
Short story titles, chapter titles from books,
titles of short poems, article titles, titles as
part of a collection of stories, episode titles in
television shows, song titles, titles for parts
of long musical works
When a work is longer, you do not use quotation marks. You
must underline or italicize longer titles. If you handwrite,
underline. If you type, italicize.
Book titles: The Hobbit
Long poems: Paradise Lost
Magazines: People
Newspapers: The New York Times
Movies: Avatar
Television Series: Empire
A Long Work of Music: The Surprise Symphony
Albums: Abbey Road
Paintings: Mona Lisa
Sculptures: The Thinker
You must also underline or italicize the names of
air, sea, and spacecraft.
Apollo 11
The Titanic
You also need to underline or italicize words that
are used as names for themselves or words
borrowed from other languages.
How do you spell alligator?
A Japanese obento is a homemade lunch.
Hyphens (-) are used to combine words and to show a
connection between syllables of words broken at end
in lines.
Rule: When writing out a two word number between
twenty-one and ninety-nine, use a hyphen.
I am thirty-one years old.
Rule: Use hyphens when typing a fraction when you use
it as an adjective.
The glass is two-thirds full.
Rule: Use a hyphen when using one of the
following prefixes and a proper noun:
Rule: Use a hyphen in any words with these
prefixes or suffixes:
Certain compound words also need hyphens.
Hyphens can also be used when a word runs
over the end of a line. Do not overuse this
because it makes writing seem choppy.
Rule: Avoid dividing words between lines
whenever possible; if you must do it, divide
between syllables.
The soccer coach’s pep talks are usually uninspiring and short.
Put the hyphen at the end of the first line,
NEVER at the beginning of the second line.
And do NOT divide one syllable words. EVER.
Similarly, do not divide words where one
letter would stand alone (ver-y).
Never divide proper nouns, or split words with
–ed at the end. When a word has a hyphen
already, don’t split it somewhere else.
Using Apostrophes with Possessive Nouns
Apostrophes are used with nouns to show
ownership or possession.
Rule: Add an apostrophe and –s to show the
possessive case of most singular nouns and
plural nouns that do not end in –s or –es.
My dog’s favorite toy is a ball.
The men’s trek up Mount Everest was
When a singular noun already ends in –s, still
add an apostrophe.
An iris’s colors are often purple and white.
Rule: Add an apostrophe to show the
possessive of plural nouns that end in –s or –
es. Do not add –s.
The bears’ den is hidden in the mountains.
Both indefinite and personal pronouns can
show possession.
Rule: Use an apostrophe and –s with indefinite
pronouns to show possession.
Another’s preference
Nobody else’s business
Rule: DO NOT use an apostrophe with
possessive personal pronouns.
First Person Singular: My, Mine
First Person Plural: Our, Ours
Second Person Singular/Plural: Your, Yours
Third Person Singular: His, Her, Hers, Its
Third Person Plural: Their, Theirs
Some of those pronouns act as adjectives.
The spider caught a fly in its web.
Others act as subjects and objects.
Mine is the yellow crayon.
Contractions are used in informal speech and
writing, especially in dialogue because they
create the sound of speech.
Rule: Use an apostrophe in a contraction to
show where one or more letters have been
Common Contractions
Verb + not
Is not = isn’t
Cannot = can’t
Noun or pronoun +
I will = I’ll
We will = we’ll
Noun or pronoun +
form of be
You are = You’re
Andy is = Andy’s
Noun or pronoun +
She would = she’d
Who would = who’d
Rule: Avoid using contractions in formal
speech or writing.
Contractions are fine in dialogue and informal
speech, but should be avoided for formal
Informal: What’s the answer?
Formal: What is the answer?
Do not use apostrophes to form plurals, save
for very specific instances.
Rule: Use an apostrophe and –s to create the
plural form of a single letter, a numeral, or a
word used as a name for itself.
Mind your p’s and q’s.
Remember your please’s, please.

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