Punctuation Inside Sentences
End marks are easy to use. Periods are used most often, question marks are used at the end of questions, and exclamation points end sentences that show high emotions. Punctuation inside sentences cause writers the most trouble, but are necessary to add meaning and tone to the writing.
· Apostrophes (‘) are used for contractions and to indicate possession. Example: We can’t go to Paula’s office.
· Colons (:) are used before a list or an example. Example: Selling is simple: give customers what they want. Give customers bread, milk, and cheese if they want them.
· Commas (,) are used to create breaks inside the sentence. This is when two words or clauses need to be separated otherwise, the meaning would change. Without commas, James would only bring home two items from the example below. Example: Tell James to get paper, folders, and diskettes.
· Dashes (—) are used to indicate a break in thought. Example: One reason to shop at Burrell’s—perhaps the best—is our excellent customer service.
· Hyphens (-) are used to join two words that cannot be joined as a compound word. Example: Let’s develop our problem-solving skills with this 4-foot board.
· Parentheses ( ) are used to set off words, phrases, and sentences as well as when expressing numbers as a word and digit. Example: Last month (January), Paul was promoted two (2) times.
· Periods (.) are not only used to end sentences but for certain abbreviations as well. Example: Most sentences will end with a period, A. J.
· Semicolons (;) should only be used for separating two complete sentences that are closely related or to separate items in a series when commas are also in play. Example: Sales are up significantly; last week they increased 12 percent.
Punctuation for Quoting Sources
This is a category of punctuation inside sentences that takes on a life of its own. Quotation marks, square brackets, and ellipses all indicate that you are dealing with someone else’s words.
· Use quotation marks (“”) around
· The names of brochures, pamphlets, and magazine articles.
· Words to indicate you think the term is misleading.
· Words that you are discussing as words.
· Words or sentences you quote from someone else including dialogue.
· Use square brackets ([ ]) to add your own additions to or changes in quoted material.
· Use ellipses ( . . . ) to
· Indicate that one or more words have been omitted in the middle of quoted material. You do not need ellipses at the beginning or end of a quote.
· To imply the pace of spoken comments in advertising and direct mail.
Special formatting deals with font styles, numbers, and dates.
· Use italics to
· Indicate the names of newspapers, magazines, movies, and books.
· Emphasize words.
· Format numbers based on their purpose and/or amount.
· Spell out numbers from zero to nine.
· Use figures for numbers 10 and over in most cases.
· Use figures for amounts of money, calculations, and statistics.
· Spell out any number that appears at the beginning of a sentence. If spelling it out is impractical, revise the sentence so that it does not begin with a number.
· Type dates based on the corporate practice.
· In dates, use figures for the day and year. The month is normally spelled out.
· Be sure to spell out the month in international business communication.
· U.S. usage puts the month first, so that 1/10/04 means January 10, 2004.
· European usage puts the day first, so that 1/10/05 means 1 October 2005.
· Modern punctuation uses a comma before the year only when you give both the month and the day of the month.
Capitalizing the first letter of a word indicates the word is being used in a special way. Here are guidelines which will help you capitalize correctly.
· Capitalize the first word of a sentence and the pronoun I in any location. Example: The agency bought a computer, and I learned how to use it.
· Capitalize the first word in a quotation. Example: Mr. Marsh exclaimed, “Let’s do the best we can!”
· Capitalize the first word and all titles and nouns in the salutation of a letter and the first word in the complimentary close. Examples: Dear Miranda, Sincerely yours, Very truly yours
· Capitalize the names of the days of the week, special days (holidays), months of the year, historic events, and eras. Example: Tuesday, Memorial Day, American Revolution,
Fourth of July, December, Paleozoic Era
· Capitalize the first, last, and all other important words in the titles of written works (documents, books, journals, newspapers, reports) and their contents (chapters, sections, articles), works of art and music, and movies. Capitalize articles (a, an, the), conjunctions, or prepositions only when they are the first or last words in a title or subtitle. Examples: The Wealth of Nations A Day at the Races, The Declaration of Independence, Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All”
· Capitalize nouns and abbreviations referring to parts of a written work only when the reference is followed by a number. Examples: Book IX, Chapter 6, Section 2, Volume III
· Capitalize words referring to the Deity and a specific religion. Examples: the Creator, Buddhism, Christian, Allah
· Capitalize the names of people and words associated with the name (places, diseases, etc.) Examples: Joyce M. Wexler, Hodgkin’s disease, David Ponitz Center
· Capitalize titles when used as follows:
· when immediately preceding a name. Examples: Dr. Carl Maxwell, Miss Dorothy Mosher, Uncle Don, Sergeant Jackson, Mr. Edward Crane, President Wilma Dorn, Grandma Judy Seaman Hoover
· after a name in an address of typed signature. Example: Ms. Maria Richards, Director of Personnel; Marvin J. Feldman, Manager
· when used in the place of a person’s name. Examples: “I understand your decision, Judge,” replied the defendant. I love you, Grandma.
· Capitalize the specific names of the following:
· geographical sites & places: Rocky Mountains Lake Superior Austin, Texas
· regions: the Midwest the South the Middle East
· organizations: the United Way American Red Cross Salvation Army
· buildings: Union Baptist Church Empire State Building Dunbar High School
· works of engineering: Hoover Dam Great Wall of China Jefferson Memorial
· state abbreviations: IL OH UT CA WI MI
· Capitalize words based on nationalities or historical background. Examples: Alaskan, Canadians, Mexican, Chinese, New Yorker, Indian, Midwesterner, Californian
· Capitalize the name brand but not the generic product’s name. Examples: Hostess Twinkies snacks, Lava soap, Mercedes-Benz automobiles, Reebok tennis shoes, Wonder bread, Apple personal computers
· Capitalize the names of specific courses (usually followed by a number) but not those of general areas of study (except languages). Examples: Mrs. Cramer’s record includes many business, mathematics, and political science courses; she is now studying Spanish and Psychology 267.
· Below is a list of some words that should NOT be capitalized.
· trees: redwood, oak, willow
· flowers: daffodil, rose, tulip
· diseases/illnesses: cancer, measles, appendicitis
· titles following a pronoun/article: my mom, our doctor, the judge
· seasons: fall, winter, spring, summer
· directions: north on Interstate 75, rain from the west, southerly winds
Section Two: Choosing the Right Word
When choosing words, you have a lot of options due to all the synonyms that exist. The challenge is to decide what you want the reader to understand or to take action. This part will cover denotation, connotation, precise words, commonly confused words, jargon, and active verbs.
Choose Words for a Purpose
Denotation is a word’s literal meaning. These words are formal and clinical in nature and have a neutral emotional coloring. Examples: male, female, book, house. Bypassing is when two people define the same word differently. The word pound, for example, denotes a unit of weight, a place where stray animals are kept, a unit of money in the British system, and the verb to hit. Example: If someone asks for a cola at a restaurant, the waitress may bring a Pepsi when the customer wanted a Coke.
Connotation refers to words that contain either positive or negative emotional. Example: A positive word for male is “man,” and a negative word is “jerk.”
Familiar words are in almost everyone’s vocabulary. These are better choices when writing for customers, clients, and patients.
|Formal and Stuffy||Short and Simple|
Short, common words sound friendlier; however, use a longer word when
· It is the only word that expresses your meaning exactly.
· It is more familiar than a short word.
· Its connotations are more appropriate.
· The reader or industry prefers it.
Precise Words for ExactnessWhat do the words good, great, nice, bad, terrible, thing, stuff, item, very, really, definitely, extremely, wonderful, fabulous, awesome, horrible, and excellent all have in common?
a. These words are vague.
b. These words aren’t precise.
c. These words don’t describe the subject fully and accurately.
d. These words can lead to miscommunication in your writing.
e. All of the above.
Consider the following sentences written by one writer, unknown to us:
Mary is a very good girl. I really want to get her something nice for her graduation.
Just what does the writer of the sentences above mean by “something nice?” One person might think that six foot tall plastic flamingo sculpture would look stunning in Mary’s front yard. Another friend knows she needs a watch. Would Mary be impressed with a genuine Rolex or would a Timex work just as well? That word “really” indicates emphasis. How badly does the writer want this gift: enough to mortgage the house? What exactly, does the writer mean by “very good?” Does Mary excel at academics? Does she help little old ladies cross the street? Does she always call her aunts and uncles on their birthdays? How many aunts and uncles does she have, by the way? Did someone mention they all live in Argentina?
Are you getting the point? Aim for “precision” in your writing. From now on, one goal in all your writing is to use precise words. You want to use specific words and descriptive words. You want to use examples and illustrations.
Eliminate vague words like good, great, bad, nice, very, really, definitely, and most of their synonyms. These words are now what you might call, “forbidden words.”
Jargon is technical or specialty words that are specific to an industry, an area of study, or a specific group. Acceptable Jargon is specialized terminology of a technical field. Example: LIFO and FIFO are technical terms in accounting; byte and baud are computer jargon; scale-free and pickled and oiled designate specific characteristics of steel. Also, business slang are terms that are borrowed from technical fields but are used in a more general sense. Examples: bottom line, blindsiding, and downsize. Unacceptable jargon is arcane or dated language that should be avoided. Examples: as per your request, enclosed please find, please do not hesitate.
Commonly Confused Words
Commonly Confused Words are usually words sound similar, but they have different meanings. Some of these words sound don’t sound alike and the meanings are confused to be the same, but the meanings are not the same.
· accept: to receive
· except: to leave out or exclude; but
· Example: I accept your proposal except for point three.
· affect: (verb) to influence or modify
· effect: (verb) to produce or cause; (noun) result
· Example. He hoped that his argument would affect his boss’ decision, but so far as he could see, it had no effect.
· Example: The tax relief effected some improvement for the citizens whose incomes had been affected by inflation.
· between: (use with only two choices)
· among: (use with more than two choices)
· Example: This year the differences between the two candidates for president are unusually clear.
· Example: I don’t see any major differences among the candidates for city council.
· compose: make up, create
· comprise: consist of, be made up of, be composed of
· Example: The city council is composed of 12 members. Each district comprises an area 50 blocks square.
· fewer: (use for objects which can be counted individually)
· less: (use for objects which can be measured but not counted individually)
· Example: There is less sand in this bucket; there are probably fewer grains of sand, too.
· it’s: it is, it has
· its: belonging to it
· Example: It’s clear that a company must satisfy its customers to stay in business.
· stationary: not moving, fixed
· stationery: paper
· Example: During the earthquake, even the stationery was not stationary.
· to: (preposition) function word indicating proximity, purpose, time, etc.
· too: (adverb) also, very, excessively
· two: (adjective) the number 2
· Example: The formula is too secret to entrust to two people.
· your: belonging to you
· you’re: you are
· Example: You’re the top candidate for promotion in your division.
· their: possessive (shows possession)
· there: location/place (shows location or where something/someone is)
· they’re: a contraction meaning they are
· Example: Their house is over there where they’re standing.
You can find many more examples of commonly confused words online.