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Can someone take me through punctuation, please?

(10 Posts)
CherryChoc Sun 14-Jun-09 23:53:41

I am a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I'm very rusty on punctuation - I can do the very basics like full stops and using apostrophes in the right place, but I'm not sure on my usage of commas and semicolons (ie I'm sure I use commas too often when a semicolon is correct) and quotation marks, " vs ' (I always thought ' was wrong and possibly lazy, but it seems to be the accepted style for speech in books) Oh, and where does punctuation go in brackets, inside them or out?

I feel I really should know this stuff, my only excuse is that English at my secondary school was rubbish, I remember a few weeks before our GCSE exam the teacher explaining to the class the difference between a verb and an adjective shock and this was the top set! I was most shocked that she didn't even seem to regard it as unusual or worrying that most of the class didn't know which was which.

I wonder whether I ought to get a school type workbook on punctuation? grin

policywonk Mon 15-Jun-09 00:07:25

A lot of what you mention isn't a question of right/wrong, it's just a matter of choice/style - so feel free to use either " or ', and to put your punctuation inside or outside the brackets (unless the entire sentence is in brackets, in which case the full stop should be too).

A good rule of thumb with semicolons is to use them when a clause stands by itself as a sentence. So:

'Freddie walked to the park; he bought an ice cream on the way.'


'Freddie went to the park, and bought an ice cream.' (In this example, the second clause couldn't stand on its own.)

Semicolons are also useful for separating items in a list, if the items are quite long-winded.

FairLadyRantALot Mon 15-Jun-09 00:20:28

hmm...if only part of the sentence is quotation, I would put the punctuation after the brackett, to include the whole sentence...

I also use comms to much,my proofreader, i.e. neighbour keeps reminding me that a comma is only needed if the sentence sounds like it is ready to stop, but you have more to add....and sometimes if a sentence is kinda finished but you have another very short sentence to add, than you use a semi colon....

oneforward20back Mon 15-Jun-09 00:33:54

cherrychoc - with you on no clue about grammar/punctuation. But i should have no excuse: my mom used to lecture about grammar and sentence construction to students at university. grin

I was given a book called "i used to know that", which covers said topic. Plus ds' headmistress to be reckomended a ladybird book about grammer - but don't know if it would cover punctuation.

Good luck

<If you find a brick that knocks it into your brain please please hurl in this direction. The harder the better grin>

SuperBunny Mon 15-Jun-09 00:46:03

That Ladybird Grammar book is very useful. It was highly recommended to us when I did my PGCE and I still refer to it from time to time.

Quotation marks are a choice but use the same one at each end. I tend to use "for direct speech" and 'for quoting' but you must never use "at the start and' at the end. Just be consistent.

Brackets - if it contains an entire sentence, put the punctuation inside the brackets.

(This is a whole sentence.)

If it is within a sentence you should punctuate outside the brackets (like this, for example).

Commas are used to separate lists(but not after and or but) or clauses.

Today I am going to but apples, bananas, chocolate and bread.

A clause is an extra bit of information within a sentence.

For Example:

My brother bought me a book.

My brother, Horatio, bought me a book.

My brother, who is an architect, bought me a book.

It makes sense without the Horatio but you can add that for a bit more info.

Am rubbish at explaining. Get the ladybird book.

Clary Mon 15-Jun-09 01:24:13

cherrychoc I am a journalist for my sins and I abhor semi colons unless used very sparingly.

A particular bete noir of mine is their unneccessary (IMO) use in a list, eg "The schools involved are St John's Primary, Blackpool; St Herbert's, Swanage; and St Elizabeth's, Nottingham. Commas would serve there perfectly well (nobody would thing Blackpool was the name of a school) and not bring you up so short.

We use double quotes always except when quoting in a quote (eg He said: "She turned to me and said: 'I don't believe you,' which shocked me.")

That's also about the only needful use of the colon too to follow "he said" (and all variants of course).

RamblingRosa Mon 15-Jun-09 09:48:18

I think I'm generally pretty good with grammar and punctuation but I've never understood semi colons either. In fact, I'm not sure I understand colons properly either. Someone recommended Eats Shoots Leaves to me recently. I haven't read it though.

bronze Tue 16-Jun-09 11:59:12

I have just been reading it Rosa. I found the section on apostrophes was very clear but am struggling with the semi colons, colons and commas more.

(I need a signature that says I am not a pedant so I can b excused all my mistakes)

Cherrychoc I'm trying to learn it all too.

AllFallDown Wed 17-Jun-09 21:01:57

Disagree with Clary on the colon, also useful for introducing a list. Agree on the semi-colon, though: there is rarely any need for it. It should certainly not be used if you don't know how to use it, though it can be a thing of beauty when used well.

The most common mistake with commas is that people use them as a pause - a metaphorical drawing of breath. That is not what they are for; they are to separate clauses or to clarify meaning.

FairLadyRantALot Thu 18-Jun-09 12:54:47

erm....colons...isn't that part of your intestines grin....I know semi-colons...but trying to work out whihc one the colon

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