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English Composition I
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• Most writers have spent years learning rules about punctuation

– but not WHY those rules exist.

• Easiest way to use punctuation correctly is to understand WHAT it is supposed to do

• Punctuation is not natural to language

• Early writing did not include punctuation and thus is very difficult to read

• Punctuation sends signals to the reader about how to read the sentences


• Some punctuation sends signals about tone:

! Tells us the sentence has high emotion

? Tells us the sentence is a question

. Tells us the sentence is a statement

“ ” Can be used to indicate sarcasm/irony


• Some punctuation tells us how to interpret:

; two sentences are connected here

: a list or description is coming next

( ) extra information, not essential

“ ” direct quote – somebody’s exact words

this word’s a contraction or possessive


• Commas cause the most confusion

• Used for a parallel series or sequence--
My favorite classes are Algebra, Chem and English.

• Used to set off introductory segments—
While you were gone, the lottery office called.

• Used to set off explanations/definitions—
Jack, my second cousin, refused to buy insurance.

• Used WITH conjunctions to join sentences—
Jack and Jill went up the hill together, but each one came down separately.

• A common editing error is to change the punctuation– even if it isn’t needed

• Proofreading with no clear goal leads to adding extra commas or putting an apostrophe in any word with an “s” at the end.

• NEVER change punctuation unless you absolutely, positively know WHY it needs to be changed

• Focus on those SPECIFIC areas where you know you are weak

• Review your stronger areas more casually