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Module 3 -- Punctuation
3.2 Run-ons and Comma Splices
3.4 Colons and Semi-colons
3.5 Quotation Marks
3.7 Dashes and Parentheses
Quiz on Run-ons and Comma Splices
Quiz on Commas
Quiz on Colons and Semi-colons
Quiz on Quotation Marks
Quiz on Hyphens
Quiz on Dashes and Parentheses
Module 3 Test (available in lab version)
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In standard written English, sentences need to have at least one complete main clause. When a sentence lacks a complete main clause, it is called a sentence fragment.
1. When she was good. (subordinate clause, no main clause)
2. Turns here. (predicate, no subject)
3. The old man who had things he could not use. (subject, no predicate)
4. Because the employee wanted to succeed. (subordinate clause, no main clause)
5. A young secretary with few possessions. (subject, no predicate)
Sentence fragments can be corrected in a number of ways:
1. Attach a complete main clause to the fragment.
2. Add a missing subject, verb or object.
3. Use the %%predicate of a subordinate clause to turn a noun phrase into a main clause.
4. Turn a subordinate clause into a main clause by getting rid of the subordinator.
1. INCORRECT: When she was good.
CORRECT: When she was good, she was very, very good.
2. INCORRECT: A young secretary with few possessions.
CORRECT: A young secretary with few possessions is
looking for a new position. (strategy 2)
3. INCORRECT: The old man who had things he could not use.
CORRECT: The old man had things he could not use. (strategy 3)
4. INCORRECT: Because the employee wanted to succeed.
CORRECT: The employee wanted to succeed. (strategy 4)
End of the Lesson on Fragments
3.2 Run-Ons and Comma Splices
Run-Ons and Comma Splices
Run-ons and comma splices occur when two main clauses are not properly separated by either a period, a conjunction, or a colon or semicolon. In the case of the run-on, there is no punctuation or conjunction separating the two clauses; in the case of the
comma splice, there is only a comma between the two clauses.
1. Jane could succeed when she worked she was a high achiever. (run-on)
2. This group did poorly, however they tried hard. (comma splice)
3. Many studies confirm our findings, consequently we feel confident in our results. (comma splice)
4. In general, the theory accounts for the data, still the results for the third set do not fit the model. (comma splice)
5. We might change our minds we are human. (run-on)
Here are some strategies for correcting run-ons and comma splices:
1. Insert a period between the two main clauses.
2. Where appropriate, use a colon or semicolon.
3. Turn one of the clauses into a subordinate clause.
4. Insert a conjunction.
1. INCORRECT: Jane could succeed when she worked she was a high achiever.
CORRECT: Jane could succeed. When she worked she was a high achiever. (strategy 1)
2. INCORRECT: This group did poorly, however they tried hard.
CORRECT: This group did poorly; however, they tried hard. (strategy 2)
3. INCORRECT: Many studies confirm our findings, consequently we feel confident in our results.
CORRECT: Because many studies confirm our findings, we feel confident in our results. (strategy 3)
4. INCORRECT: In general, the theory accounts for the data, still the results for the third set do not fit the model.
CORRECT: In general, the theory accounts for the data, but the results for the third set do not fit the model.
5. INCORRECT: We might change our minds we are human.
CORRECT: We might change our minds: we are human. (strategy 2)
End of the Lesson on Run-ons and Comma Splices
Commas are used to separate elements of the sentence from each other. Like parentheses in mathematics, there are places where commas are almost always used, places where they can be optionally used, and places where they should never be used.
A. Commas are almost always used to separate all the items in a list except the last.
EXAMPLE: I like apples, bananas, mustard and garlic between two pieces of whole wheat bread.
However, if either the last or second-to-last item is a compound item containing and, a comma is used before the last item as well.
EXAMPLE: Yesterday I ate pizza, ravioli, and bread and butter.
B. A comma is almost always used before a conjunction which separates two fairly long main clauses.
1. It is often said that there is no disputing taste, but
sometimes I wonder whether that saying is always true.
2. Writing very long sentences as examples can be an extremely
tiring task, and sometimes it can produce ridiculous results.
3. We should try to do as well as we can, or we should not say
we are trying to fulfil our obligations.
4. Commas are one of the most frequently used punctuation marks,
but many people are not sure where they should be inserted.
B. A comma is almost always used before a conjunction which separates
two fairly long main clauses.
1. It is often said that there is no disputing taste, but sometimes I wonder whether that saying is always true.
2. Writing very long sentences as examples can be an extremely tiring task, and sometimes it can produce ridiculous results.
3. We should try to do as well as we can, or we should not say we are trying to fulfil our obligations.
4. Commas are one of the most frequently used punctuation marks, but many people are not sure where they should be inserted.
C. Commas are almost always used to set off sentence-modifying prepositional and participial phrases, and sentence-modifying adverbs and adverbial clauses which express contrast.
1. The owners, in the final analysis, are happy with the contract. (prepositional phrase)
2. When negotiating contracts, both the union and management representatives often consult lawyers. (participial phrase)
3. All the representatives, once negotiations are concluded, go to a bar and get very drunk. (participial phrase)
4. It is far from clear, however, that this is constructive behavior. (adverb)
5. The tradition is likely to continue, even though it is unhealthy. (adverbial clause)
D. Commas are generally used to set off non-restrictive clauses and phrases. A clause or phrase is non-restrictive when it modifies another expression but we do not need it to know what that expression is talking about.
1. John, the fool, asked Mary for a date. (non-restrictive: a proper name is all we need to identify John)
2. The man who killed the skunks smells bad. (restrictive: who killed the skunks does help to tell us which man)
3. The man, whom we all tried to keep away from, took a bath in tomato soup. (non-restrictive: from the second sentence,
we already know who the man is)
4. The skunks living in his backyard prowl the streets at night. (restrictive: the phrase living in his backyard tells us which skunks are on the prowl)
E. Commas are sometimes used to set off long introductory phrases and also sentence-modifying adverbs which do not express contrast (therefore, consequently). However, when a phrase functions as the subject, you should not put a comma between it and the verb (see example 4).
1. In the barn beside the river, the young boy saw a mouse.
2. Consequently, he ran home to tell his mother.
3. Over a hearty meal of meat and potatoes, he related his adventure.
4. Talking about mice was not his mother's favorite activity.
5. His mother, therefore, was not very interested.
F. Although commas are sometimes used with quotation marks, in most cases the quotation is punctuated as though it were the writer's own words. The only exceptions to this are expressions such as he says, and she asks. In these cases, commas are always inserted to set off the quotation.
1. Roma says, "We are all in this together," but I do not believe she means it.
2. The manifesto stated that "the Defenders oppose the mayor."
3. Lisa asked, "Where are all the boys?"
4. "Why," Jane wondered, "should we care?"
5. The paper claims to report "all the news that's not fit to print."
End of the Lesson on Commas
3.4 Colons and Semi-colons
The colon indicates that the list or clause following it is intended to explain or amplify. In conservative forms, the colon is always preceded by a complete main clause. In less conservative forms, the colon can be used to separate a list from verbs such as include. In all cases, the list can be as short as a single item.
1. I went to the store and bought the following: two tires, a can of oil and car wax.
Semicolons are often used to connect two closely related main clauses. They are also occasionally used to separate the items in a list following a colon when there are commas used inside the items.
1. A fool's speech is his ruin; his words are a trap for him.
2. No one knows where the young couple went; they left the town
yesterday and have not been seen since.
3. They will not know where to go; they will not know what to do.
4. Grace is deception; beauty is an illusion.
5. We bought three presents: an electric razor, with which we
hoped he would shave his beard; a comb, which we had some hope
he would use every so often; and, last but not least, a mirror
which he could use to admire himself.
End of the Lesson on Colons and Semi-colons
3.5 Quotation Marks
Quotation marks are used in a variety of circumstances:
1. They are employed when a writer is using someone else's words
(see example 1 in the next section). You should, however, never
use quotation marks around block quotations (example 4).
2. Quotation marks are also used around titles, for example, the
titles of short literary works, songs and paintings (see example 2).
The titles of books, however, are generally either put in italics
3. Sometimes quotation marks are used to set off words and phrases
which are being discussed, and to introduce technical terms
(see example 3).
1. The announcer said, "That's the news," and then started giggling.
2. Many people are not familiar with the poem "Eldorado."
3. We will use the term "stupid" to denote only stupid people.
4. The passage below is a representative sample of her prose:
The first step in making a paper airplane is to find
the right kind of paper. Tissue paper will not do;
it is too flimsy. Cardboard from boxes is generally
End of the Lesson on Quotation Marks
Hyphens can indicate that a word is continued on the next line.
Employed in this way, they should only be inserted at the end of a
syllable. Hyphens are also used to join words into compounds and to
indicate the connection between the parts of numerals between
twenty-one and ninety-nine.
1. He stirred the paint, doing his very best to work as carefully as she had requested.
2. The result, nevertheless, was a blue-green mix.
3. When he realized what had happened he stood up and proceeded to knock over the can.
4. He knew he would owe her fifty-five dollars.
5. She was not impressed with his attempts to be a do-gooder.
End of the Lesson on Hyphens
3.7 Dashes and Parentheses
Dashes are used to indicate an abrupt break in a sentence (examples 1 and 4) or to add emphasis to a parenthetical aside (examples 2 and 3). They can also be used to delete parts of offensive words (example 5). The dash is longer than the hyphen, and in typed text is represented by two hyphens (--) when there is no special key for it.
1. The detective is not--how did you know he was gone?
2. Our leader--a fearless man whom we all respect--was hiding
in the library.
3. His special aides--John, Jake and Mary--were doing their
very best to protect him.
4. He eventually came out--but I'm getting ahead of myself.
5. G--sh darn, I wish I knew how to curse.
Parentheses can set off material which is relevant but of secondary importance (example 1). They can also set off non-restrictive phrases and clauses when the insertion of commas might be confusing (example 2). Put around a sentence, they indicate that the sentence is intended as an aside (example 3). Finally, parentheses can be used with the letters or numbers which mark the items in a list (example 4).
End of the Lesson on Dashes and Parentheses
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