There are many rules for proper punctuation. We learn many of them in elementary school, more in middle and high school, and even more in college. Believe it or not, you will probably be learning these rules, and reminding yourself of these rules, throughout your life. The good news is that if you’re not sure about something, it is very easy these days to look it up. You can quickly do a search online for whatever it is that you need to know. Type in, “capitalize nouns,” or “how to use quotation marks,” and you’ll find a wealth of information. It’s also a good idea to have a grammar or style guide handy. If you do a lot of writing, these will be very helpful and very useful resources.
Here are a few basic rules of punctuation to get you started.
- When you join two sentences with a word like and, but, so, or for, use a comma first.
- A colon describes, clarifies, explains, lists, or gives an example of the first part of the sentence.
- A semicolon joins two related clauses; it links the first and the second clause.
- What you put inside parenthesis is usually something that is secondary or minor. It might clarify something for you readers or help them to understand what you’re thinking.
- Use quotation marks for shorter works (book chapters, articles, poems, and songs), italicize titles of longer works (books, magazines, newspapers, movies, plays, and CDs).
If you want to make sure you’ve got the punctuation rules mastered, Time4Writing offers three online courses that can help ensure that you have a foundation in punctuation skills as well as other important grammar knowledge.