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Punctuation n. 1. the practice or system of using certain conventional marks or characters, as periods or commas, in writing or printing in order to make the meaning clear, as in ending a sentence, separating clauses, etc. [< ML punctuation- (s. of punctuation) a marking, pointing]
Punctuation markAny of a group of conventional marks or characters used in punctuation, as the period, comma, semicolon, question mark, or dash.
[Urdang, Laurence, ed. Random House Dictionary of The English Language. New York: Random House, 1968.]
Punctuation marks; diacritical mark or sign; reference mark, reference point; stop, end stop . [Roget's International Thesaurus, Third Edition. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1962.]
Random House Dictionary of The English Language - Basic Manual of Style [The following list does not include the sentences used for examples as are provided in the original text]:
Period. (.) Use a period to end a declarative or imperative sentence [but not an exclamatory sentence]; 2. to end an indirect question; 3. to follow most abbreviations.
Ellipsis ( . . . or . . . . ) Use an ellipsis mark [three or four consecutive periods] to indicate that part of a quoted sentence has been omitted: 1. If the omission occurs at the beginning or in the middle of the sentence, use three periods in the ellipsis; 2. If the last part of the sentence is omitted or if entire sentences are omitted, add a fourth period to the ellipsis to mark the end of the sentence.
Question Mark. (?) Use a question mark: 1. To end a sentence, clause, or phrase [or after a single word] that asks a question; 2. To indicate doubt or uncertainty.
Exclamation Point. (!) Use an exclamation point to end a sentence, clause, or phrase [or after a single word] that indicates strong emotion or feeling, especially surprise, command, admiration, etc.
Comma. (,) Use a comma: 1. to separate words, phrases, and clauses that are part of a series of three or more items; 2. Do not use commas to separate adjectives which are so closely related that they appear to form a single element with the noun they modify. Adjectives which refer to the number, age [old, young, new], size, color, or location of the noun often fall within this category. A simple test can usually determine the appropriateness of a comma in such instances: If and cannot replace the comma without creating a clumsy, almost meaningless effect, it is safe to conclude that a comma is also out of place; 3. To separate independent clauses joined by the coordinating conjunctions and, but, yet, for, or nor.; 4. To separate a long introductory phrase or subordinate clause from the rest of the sentence; 5. To set off words of direct address, interjections, or transitional words used to introduce a sentence [oh, yes, no, however, nevertheless, still, anyway, well, why, frankly, really, moreover, incidentally, etc.]; 6. To set off an introductory modifier [adjective, adverb, participle, participial phrase] even if it consists of only one word or a short phrase; 7. To set off a nonrestrictive clause or phrase [an element which is not essential to the basic meaning of the sentence]. Place commas both before and after the nonrestrictive portion; 8. To set off appositives or appositive phrases. Place commas both before and after the appositive. 9. To set off parenthetical words and phrases and words of direct address; 10. To set off quoted matter from the rest of the sentence; 11. to set of items in dates and titles of individuals; 12. to set off elements in address and geographical locations when the items are written on the same line; 13. To set off titles of individuals; 14. To set off the salutation in a personal letter; 15. To set off the closing in a letter; 16. To denote an omitted word or words in one or more parallel constructions within a sentence.
Semicolon. (;) Use a semicolon: 1. To separate independent clauses not joined by a conjunction; 2. To separate independent clauses that are joined by such conjunctive adverbs as hence, however, therefore, etc.; 3. To separate long or possible ambiguous items in a series, especially when the items already include commas; 4. To separate elements that are closely related but cannot be joined unambiguously; 5. To precede an abbreviation or word that introduces an explanatory or summarizing statement.
Colon. (:) Use a colon: 1. To introduce a series or list of items, examples, or the like; 2. To introduce a long formal statement, quotation, or question; 3. To follow a formal salutation, as in a letter or speech; 4. To follow the name of the speaker in a play; 5. To separate parts of a citation; 6. To separate hours from minutes in indicating time; 7. To indicate that an initial clause in a sentence will be further explained or illustrated by the material which follows the colon. In effect, the colon is a substitute for such phrases as "for example," or "namely."
Apostrophe. (') Use an apostrophe: 1. To denote the omission of letters, figures, or numerals; 2. To denote the possessive case of nouns; 3. To form the plurals of letters or figures add an apostrophe and an s.
Quotation Marks. (" ") Use quotation marks: 1. To distinguish spoken words from other matter, as in reporting dialogue; 2. To mark single words, sentences, paragraphs, or poetic stanzas which are quoted verbatim from the original; 3. To enclose a quotation within a quotation, in which case a single quotation mark is used; 4. To enclose titles of newspaper and magazine articles, essays, stories, poems, and chapters of books. The quotation marks are designed to distinguish such literary pieces from the books or periodicals [these are italicized] in which they appear; 5. To enclose titles of short musical compositions and songs as distinct from symphonies and operas which are italicized; 6. To enclose titles of works of art such as paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture; To enclose titles of radio and television programs; 8. To enclose titles of plays only if they are referred to as part of a larger collection. Referred to as single volumes, they are italicized; 9. To enclose names of ships and airplanes. Italics may also be used for this purpose; 1 0. To emphasize a word or phrase which is itself the subject of discussion; 11. To draw attention to an uncommon word or phrase, a technical term, or a usage very different in style [dialect, extreme slang] from the context. Italics are often used for the same purpose; 12. To suggest ironic use of a word or phrase;
NOTE: The placement of quotation marks is determined by certain arbitrary rules and varies with different marks of punctuation. . . .
Parentheses ( ) Use parentheses: 1. To enclose material that is not part of the main sentence but is too relevant to omit; 2. To enclose part of a sentence that, if enclosed by commas, would be confusing; 3. To enclose an explanatory item that is not part of the statement or sentence; 4. To enclose numbers or letters that designate each item in a series; 5. To enclose a numerical figure used to confirm a spelled-out number which precedes it.
Brackets. [ ] Brackets are used in pairs to enclose figures, phrases, or sentences that are meant to be set apart from the context--usually a direct quotation. . . .
Dash. (--) Use a dash: 1. To mark and abrupt change in thought or grammatical construction in the middle of a sentence; 2. To suggest halting or hesitant speech; 3. To indicate a sudden break or interruption before a sentence is completed; 4. To add emphasis to parenthetical material or to mark an emphatic separation between parenthetical material and the rest of a sentence; 5. To set off an appositive or an appositive phrase when a comma would provide less than the desired emphasis on the appositive or when the use of commas might result in confusion with commas within the appositive phrase; 6. To replace an offensive word or part of one
Hyphen. (-) The hyphenation of compound nouns and modifiers is often arbitrary, inconsistent, and subject to change. Practices vary. To determine current usage as well as traditional forms, it is best to consult the dictionary. . . .
Italics. Italics [indicated by underlining in manuscript] are occasionally used to emphasize a particular word, phrase, or statement. Done with restraint, this use of italics can be effective. Done to excess, it reduces the text to a flickering mass. Italics are used when referring to the titles of books, magazines, newspapers, motion pictures and plays, longer musical compositions, works of art, ships, aircraft, and book-length poems. Foreign words and phrases that are used in English texts should always be italicized. Use italics when referring to a letter, number, word, or expression as such. Quotation marks are sometimes used instead of italics. Use italics for parenthesized stage directions in a play.
[Urdang, Laurence, ed. Random House Dictionary of The English Language. New York: Random House, 1968. Basic Manual of Style, pp. 1559-1568]
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