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The Most Useful Punctuation and Capitalization Rules

Punctuation/Examples

Commas                                                                      

-Use commas before or after speaker tags.                  

She said, “Call me at home.”

-Use commas to set apart appositives.                         

That man, the one with the hat, left.

-Use commas after each item in lists (except the last).   

John, Jane, and Jose left early.

-Use commas after introductory words or phrases.       

First of all, you should listen to me.

-Use commas between number dates and years.                    

It all happened on May 3, 1999.

-Use commas between geographical places.                 

She lived in Tampa, Florida.

-Use commas after greetings/closings in personal letters.           

Dear Ralph, … Sincerely, …

-Use commas after nouns of direct address.                 

Kristin, leave some for your sister.

-Use commas before conjunctions to join two independent clauses.

I liked her, and she liked me.

Exclamation Points                                                                   

-Use exclamation points for surprise or strong emotions.           

The decision really shocked me!

Quotation Marks

-Use quotation marks before and after direct quotations.          

Sue said, “I’m going to bed.”

-Use quotation marks before and after songs, poems, document titles, book chapters, magazine articles, and short story titles.   

Whenever I hear “Clementine,” it reminds me of “Leaves of Grass” and “The Gettysburg Address.”

Colons                                                                                    

-Use colons after business letter greetings.                    

Dear Sirs:

-Use colons to introduce lists.                                      

The following: shoes, pants, and…

-Use colons between numbers in relationship.               

8:52 P.M.

Semicolons                                                                              

-Use semicolons to join independent clauses without conjunctions.

Jamal went to school; Larry met him.

Underlining                                                                              

-Underline movie, television show, book, magazine, and work of art titles.

I saw the wonderful Fiddler on the Roof last night.

Apostrophes                                                                            

-Use apostrophes for contractions.                                           

I can’t see what they’re doing.

-Use apostrophes for singular and plural possessives.   

Tom’s and the girls’ coats were red.

Parentheses

-Use parentheses to explain or define.                          

The hombre (man) rode off alone.

Capitalization                                                               

-Capitalize proper nouns (a name that is given to special persons, places, or things).

Ryan visited Los Angeles to visit the Holocaust Museum.

-Capitalize holidays, dates, groups, organizations, and businesses.

Last Easter on March 24, 2002 the P.T.A. and McDonald’s helped out.

-Capitalize the first, last, and any important words in titles.

Prince Charles’s favorite book was Islands of Adventure.

-Capitalize the names of languages and peoples.                       

He spoke Spanish to the Indians.

-Capitalize special events and historical periods.                       

The New Year’s Day Parade celebrates the Year of the Dog.

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