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Punctuation Marks

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Wed Mar 04, 2009 10:02 pm
Rosey Unicorn says...



I’ve noticed that a lot of people are having a hard time figuring out where to put some punctuation marks in their prose and dialogue, such as commas, ellipses and semicolons. Here’s a quick reference guide for those tricky punctuation marks us writers have to deal with.

Commas-

There are only three types of commas: list, interrupter and intro

List- A list comma is used to, well, list any sentence elements. Usually, in a list, the final entry has an “and” instead of a comma.

Example- We need milk, bread and cheese at the store.

Interrupter- They add in any extra information in a sentence, such as proper names. Some people think that brackets are what you use to separate extra information but that is incorrect. You use commas instead.

Example- Her brother, Zach, was waiting for her.

Intro- They introduces something at the beginning of a sentence, or break something off at the end

Example for beginning- Because she got there early, Samantha had to wait.

Example for end- Samantha enjoyed herself at the party, even though her ex was there.

Technically there is a fourth type, but you will only find it in non-school based writing- Put a comma anywhere you think a pause is needed. Be warned though, that is not an actual comma rule. Just something we authors use to make our super-long sentences more readable, and to show pauses in our dialogue.

Semicolons-

They are probably one of the strangest punctuation marks you’ll come across. So, what does that little ; do, anyways?

Semicolons are actually a really nice punctuation mark to use. They act like a period, meaning you put them in the same place, but they tie two sentences together.

Example- It was a long walk to the ranch; we were tired when we got there.

Colons-

These are used to introduce something, such as a list or an explanation to something.

Example for list- Everything she hated was there: fear, hatred and hopelessness.

Example for explanation- I did one thing wrong, however: I underestimated him.

Dashes-

They have a rather universal role, taking the place of both interrupter commas and colons. The reason you’d use a dash instead of another punctuation mark is for emphasis. Dashes will surround something that requires extra attention from the reader, introduce a choppy or panicked sentence element, to show a sudden break in dialogue or to show a character being cut off.

Example for introduction: I did one thing wrong, however—I underestimated him

Example for surrounding things: I couldn’t believe it when Jenny – my best friend since kindergarten—betrayed me.

Example for choppy elements: Suddenly there was a sound— cannon fire!

Example for dialogue: “And that’s what happened during the Civil War—I’m not doing your homework for you, am I?”

Example for a character being cut off: “All I did was—”

“Ruin everything!”

Apostrophes-

Apostrophes are some of the punctuation marks that are the easiest to make consistent mistakes on. The only time you use them is when putting two words together or when making something possessive.

Example for two words together: Don’t is “do not” and “it’s” is “it is”

Warning! When you use an apostrophe this way, double-check that you are actually merging two words by splitting things apart. If you’ve used “it’s” and your sentence makes no sense with “it is” then you’ve used an apostrophe incorrectly.

Example for making something possessive: The house’s lawn is green.

Note- If you end up with a double “s” sound at the end of a word after adding an apostrophe s, (such as in James’s or houses’s) you drop the s after the apostrophe (like so- James’ or houses’).

Quotation marks-

Only use them in and around dialogue. It doesn’t look good if you put quotes around a word in a description of something. Use italics to show sarcasm in your descriptions instead. Unless, of course, your character is talking with air quotes.

If you are using quotes in dialogue, use single quotes. This also applies is your character is quoting another character. If the exaggerated or quoted word is at the end of a sentence, use the end punctuation to show the space between the single and double quote.

Example: “What do you mean, ‘bouncy’?”

An extra thing some authors run into is mind-speak. Technically, it counts as dialogue. A suggestion is leaving your MC’s mind-speak without quotes, and putting single quotes around any other voices your character might have in their heads.

Example: I don’t know if this is a good idea or not.

‘Trust me.’

Here, “trust me” is said by an outside voice, so it gets put between quotes. It’s up to you if you use single or double quotes around mind-speak, but since double quotes are used for spoken dialogue, I find using single quotes around mind-speak eases confusion.

Capitalization-

It sounds easy, right? Only cap the first word of a sentence and proper nouns. So, what’s a proper noun?

A proper noun is when you are referring to something specific. Like directions, company names, titles, days of the week, the months, anything that can have “the” before it and still make sense (such as the Goddess) and people that are referred to by their title alone (such as Mother).

Mother and other titles (such as doctor, royal titles, ect) can be tricky to get. Here are some examples:

When to cap:

Mother is coming today.
I’m going to see Dr. White.
The Emperor has arrived.

When not to cap:

My mother is coming today.
I’m going to see the doctor.
I find emperors are tyrants.

Whenever you are referring to a specific person, place or thing you capitalize. When the noun could stand for anybody or anything (or has “my” in front of it) then you leave the noun lower-case.

Ellipses-

Ellipses are used to show pauses in dialogue or to show a character trailing off.

Example of pauses: “I don’t know what to think… Things are just up in the air right now.”

Note- You can also use tags to show pauses. But if your character is pausing a lot in one sentence, use ellipses. It makes things easier to read.

Example for trailing off: “M’name’s Pearl, I think…”

~~

I hope you enjoyed this guide. Punctuation can be weird, but doing it right is often the difference between a good work and a great one.
You know you're a writer when you're not alarmed at hearing voices in your head, you can't read a book without analyzing it for plot & characters and you consider something you nearly killed yourself to write the most rewarding.

Guilty as charged.




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Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:17 pm
AspiringAuthorA..M. says...



"Rosey Unicorn wrote:
A proper noun is when you are referring to something specific. Like directions, company names, titles, days of the week, the months, anything that can have “the” before it and still make sense (such as the Goddess) and people that are referred to by their title alone (such as Mother).


Does that include 'mom' and 'dad'

Thus, 'Mom' and 'Dad' :?:
"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
-John 11:25-26




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Tue Feb 23, 2010 6:34 pm
Rosey Unicorn says...



If you're using "mom" and "dad" as the person's name, then yes. Example:

"Mom, can I go out?"

If they're a general term, then lowercase:

"My mom said I could go out."
You know you're a writer when you're not alarmed at hearing voices in your head, you can't read a book without analyzing it for plot & characters and you consider something you nearly killed yourself to write the most rewarding.

Guilty as charged.




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Sun Mar 07, 2010 7:06 pm
captain.classy says...



Quick question:

Example of pauses: “I don’t know what to think… Things are just up in the air right now.”


When you use an ellipses, after you use it, does the word follow have to be capitalized, or does it matter?

Can you say, "I don't know what to think... things are just up in the air right now."

Classy




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Mon Mar 08, 2010 2:17 am
Rosey Unicorn says...



Part of it is preference and consistency. If you're starting a new sentence rather unrelated to the first, as given in my example, then you (probably) capitalize. If it's just a short pause, then you don't have to. An example of the latter would be:

"That's... that's just not right."

Elipses are a bit tricky and can get even trickier in fiction, since they do work for pauses. That's when consistency becomes important. Readers will get used to a certain style and not care after a point.
You know you're a writer when you're not alarmed at hearing voices in your head, you can't read a book without analyzing it for plot & characters and you consider something you nearly killed yourself to write the most rewarding.

Guilty as charged.