Rules for Internal Punctuation
There are three principal tools of internal punctuation:
Use the colon under the three following conditions:
- After the term "as follows" or when it is implied
- To introduce quotations of more than one sentence
- After salutations of business letters
There are three situations in which the semicolon is used:
- In compound sentences before coordinate conjunctions
- Between two main clauses, instead of a period
- Used in series of words, phrases, clauses that are too complicated for commas alone
There are nine standard uses for the comma.
Commas in series. To separate words, phrases, and clauses in series in one of the simplest and most common functions.
Words in a series:
- I bought peanuts, popcorn, ice cream, and jelly beans.
Phrases in a series:
- We ran into the house, up the stairs, through the bedroom, and onto the back porch.
Clauses in a series:
- They are men who fought for their country, who would die for their country, but who would prefer to love and live in peace.
Commas with semicolons in series. When a series becomes too complicated for commas alone to clarify the meaning, semicolons can be of great help.
- Jerry lives at 1225 East 105th Street, Detroit, Michigan; Ken lives at 12206 Kenworthy Road, Akron, Ohio; and Bert lives at 1406 Budd Street, Los Angeles, California.
Commas with adjectives in a series. Since all adjectives do not carry quite the same function in a sentence, they are not always separated by commas in the same way. Those that are considered coordinate adjectives are separated by commas. Adjectives that are considered non-coordinate are not separated by commas.
Coordinate adjectives can be interchanged without changing the meaning of the sentence, and they can be separated by "and."
- The dog's coat was wet, muddy, and bloody.
- The look on her face was serene, thoughtful, and bemused.
Non-coordinate adjectives do not take "and" between them, and changing their order changes the meaning of the sentence.
- The pilot followed the huge low-flying oblong object.
- He bought a battered Ford pick-up truck.
Commas used to influence the flow of ideas. In the most general sense, this is the primary use of all commas — to prevent misreading of a sentence. A comma should be used at any point in a sentence where words running together might be ambiguous or convey the wrong meaning.
- When the plane flies over the children will cheer.
- When the plane flies over, the children will cheer.
- Scurrying below the people looked like ants.
- Scurrying below, the people looked like ants.
- To Lulu Belle told her innermost secrets.
- To Lulu, Belle told her innermost secrets.
Commas that separate "intruders." Words that add afterthoughts, emphasis, or shades of meaning are set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.
Nouns of address. These are used when the writer is reproducing direct conversation. The name of the person, animal, or thing spoken to is separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma or commas. Remember, the noun of address is not the subject of the sentence. "You understood" is the subject.
- Fido, come here.
- Shine on, harvest moon.
- You, Frank, are an opinionated ass.
Mild interjections. These are interjections that are not strong enough to warrant the use of exclamation points.
- My, want a lovely place you have.
- Dear me, I didn't expect you so early.
- Well, what did you expect?
Parenthetical expressions. hese are words added to or inserted in the basic sentence pattern.
- Yes, I agree with you. No, it isn't too late.
- You are, in effect, breaking the law.
- Women, in general, are more gentle than men.
- As a matter of fact, they did not come near here.
Commas that separate words used out of their usual order.
- The clever and resourceful detective quickly discovered the clues.
- The detective, clever and resourceful, quickly discovered the clues.
- The once swift and clear brook was completely dry.
- The book, once swift and clear, was completely dry.
Commas that separate non-restrictive appositives. The easiest way to understand what is meant by appositives is to look at examples.
- His friend Steve lives in Boston.
- Steve, his friend, lives in Boston.
In these sentences the words "Steve" and "his friend" are said to be in apposition, which means standing side by side. Appositives are restrictive if they must remain together in order to make a definite identification. If you dropped Steve from the first sentence, there would be no way of identifying the appositive, his friend. Appositives are called non-restrictive if they merely provide additional information which is not essential for positive identification. In the second sentence you could drop his friend and still know who was meant. Non-restrictive appositives are set off by commas. No commas are used with restrictive appositives.
- He was discussing Lionel Smith the banker, not Lionel Smith the actor.
- Lionel Smith, the actor, met Ked Dodd, the painter.
Commas that separate non-restrictive clauses. Like appositives, subordinate clauses can be restrictive or non-restrictive depending on whether they are vital to the meaning of the main clause or add new information. Restrictive clauses do not require commas; non-restrictive clauses do.
People who like sports are our best customers.
Do not go until you have read all the directions.
It was a report which he desperately needed.
Boston, which is the site of the famous Tea Party, is a very old city.
He gave the money to Leonard Sedder, who is my father-in-law.
You are all invited to come, although the weather might be fairly cool.
Other common uses of the comma. In dates, in addresses, in correspondence, in direct quotations.
There are a few punctuations that may be used in forming complete phrases and sentences in the English language. A list of such punctuations are given below:
- To separate members of a series. Examples include: 1, 2, 3 or first, second, third.
- To separate the day from the date, the date from the year, and the year from the rest of the sentence. Example: 1, 11, 2003. It may also be used to separate a city from the state, the state from the country, and the country from the rest of the sentence, which may be a continent.
- To separate two sentences joined by a connection, such as a coordinate conjunction. Example: Frodo, a hobbit from the Shire, became the ring bearer in the end.
- To separate introductory clauses and long phrases from the rest of the sentence. Example: If I were you, I'd stay a little longer, sit awhile, speak to Kate, and sort things out.
- To set off words in apposition. Example: That composer is a genius, as Bach and Beethoven are geniuses.
- To separate "the only one" and "That particular one" clause from the rest of the sentence.
- To separate transitional words and phrases from the rest of the sentence.
- To separate two sentences when the conjunction is omitted. Example: She led a powerful life; it made her very famous.
- To separate members of a series when one of the members contains a comma. Example: one edge, two edges; four edges and five.
- To introduce a statement, an explanation, a long list and after "the following."
- To separate words or phrases inserted in a sentence when these words or phrases have no organic connection with the sentence.
The Quotation Marks
- To enclose direct quotations, not after "he said that!" To enclose titles of poems, songs, articles, and essays. (Generally — place punctuation inside quotations.)