Punctuation Checklist


  • Use a comma to separate two clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction--For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So. I, cc I.

    • Many companies are hiring chief information officers to oversee their information technology systems,for only a specialist can keep pace with the rapid changes in technology.

    • Susan may stay on campus for the weekend, or she may decide to go home to see her high school friends.

  • Comma after an introductory element

    • On the sand of the beach by the inlet, we relaxed in the sun.

    • Under the pile of clothes, we found his wallet.

    • After we studied for the test,we finally could relax.

  • Commas around nonrestrictive element

    • The average world temperature,however, has continued to rise significantly. (word)

    • Company managers, seeking higher profits, hired temporary workers to replace full-time staff. (phrase)

    • My uncle,who is eighty years old, walks three miles every day. (clause)

  • Use a comma to set off the speaker's tag (he said) from the beginning of a quotation. Place the comma inside closing quotation marks when the speaker's tag follows the quotation.

    • "I would like to go to the beach this weekend," she told him as they left the apartment.

    • Did he say, "We should all go to the movies"?

    • “Do you want to go to the movies?” Bob asked.

    • He tells his mother, “Seem, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems’” (1.2.76).

    • Hamlet states, “nor the fruitful river in the eye” can “denote” his true feelings (1.2.80).

  • No commas around a restrictive or essential element

    • Those who favor year round school often overlook the negative impact on students.

  • Commas separating items in a series

    • When Harold saw his girlfriend across the crowded airport, he sprinted toward her, leaping over luggage, colliding with travelers, and dodging potted palms.


  • Use the semicolon to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas.

    • This conference has people who have come from Boise, Idaho; Los Angeles, California; and Nashville, Tennessee.

  • Use a semicolon between two independent clauses that are closely related in topic.

    • The United States has more computers than any other country; its residents own more than 164 million.

  • Semicolon between main clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb or transitional expression

    • Japan is next on that list; however, the Japanese have only 50 million computers.

Semicolon PPT


  • Colon to introduce a series

    • I have so many things to do when I get home today: walk the dog, do my Spanish homework, work on my biology report, and clean my room.

  • Colon ending an independent clause to introduce information

    • I know what I am going to do: I am going to quit.


  • Use dashes to emphasize a point or to set off an explanatory comment

    • Never have I met such a lovely person—before you.

    • I pay the bills—she has all the fun.



    1. Generally, hyphenate between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a single idea.

      1. friendly-looking man

      2. two-seater aircraft

      3. never-forgotten experience

      4. one-way street

      5. heart-wrenching movie

    2. When adverbs not ending in -ly are used as compound words in front of a noun, hyphenate.

      1. The well-known actress accepted her award.

      2. A long-anticipated decision was finally made.

      3. He got a much-needed haircut yesterday.

    3. Hyphenate all compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine.

      1. The teacher had thirty-two children in her classroom.

      2. Only twenty-one of the children were bilingual.

    4. Hyphenate all spelled-out fractions.

      1. You need one-third of a cup of sugar for that recipe.

      2. More than one-half of the student body voted for removing soda machines from campus.

    5. Hyphenate all words beginning with self except for selfish and selfless.

      1. He was self-assured that he would do well on the test.

      2. Self-respect is important in life.

      3. Take a self-addressed envelope to the counter.

    6. Use the hyphen with the prefix re only when the re means again AND omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word.

      1. Will she recover from her illness? Re does not mean again.

      2. I have re-covered the sofa twice. Re does mean again AND omitting the hyphen would have caused confusion with another word.

      3. I must re-press the shirt.

    7. Use a hyphen with the prefix ex.

      1. His ex-wife sued him.

      2. His ex-girlfriend told rumors about him.

      3. Though he no longer held an official position, the ex-mayor still attended all the town’s functions.

      4. Michael is an ex-basketball player who is now working with disadvantaged youth

The hyphen examples are from "Grammar - Correctly Using the Hyphen." Grammar - Correctly Using the Hyphen. Evergreen Public Schools, n.d. Web. 30 June 2015. <>.


  • The apostrophe has three uses:

    • 1. To form possessives of nouns

      • the children’s toy

      • Charles’s

        • To show that a noun is possessive, add an apostrophe and an s, even if the word already ends with an s.

    • 2. To show that two words have been made into a contraction

      • It’s = it is

      • Its = possessive


Do you need to review rules for capitalization? Check out

Run-on Sentences

Be careful of run-on sentences (fused sentences or comma splices).

Review Handout on Comma Splices &

Review Handout on Fused Sentences

Do Some Exercises

Verbs for Analysis

asserts, argues, acknowledges, stresses, claims, believes, contends, suggests, conveys, adds, illustrates, produces, establishes, presents, offers, refutes, indicate, creates, clarifies, reveals, demonstrates, conveys, provides, portrays, proves, illuminates, discredits, points out, alludes to , clarifies, explains, exposes, expounds, highlights, implies, connotes, establishes, exemplifies, signifies, substantiates, demonstrates, remarks, speculates, discovers, compels, instigates, presents, provokes, achieves, enhances, expands, constructs, attempts, develops, produces, defends, conveys, evokes, juxtaposes, underscores, displays, emphasizes, attests, analyzes, compares, contrasts, critiques, defines, describes, discusses, evaluates, illustrates, explains, interprets, justifies, lists, outlines, proves, reviews, states, summarizes, synthesizes, affirms, compliments, condemns, contemplates, contradicts, distinguishes, embodies, eliminates, encounters, justifies, motivates, opposes, reflects, reinforces, resolves, restores, transforms

Tone Words

Positive tone words:

admiring, adoring, affectionate, appreciative, approving, bemused, benevolent, blithe, calm, casual, celebratory, cheerful, comforting, comic, compassionate, complimentary, conciliatory, confident, contented, delightful, earnest, ebullient, ecstatic, effusive, elated,empathetic, encouraging, euphoric, excited, exhilarated, expectant, facetious, fervent, flippant, forthright, friendly, funny, gleeful, hopeful, humorous, introspective, jovial, joyful, laudatory, nostalgic, optimistic, passionate, placid, playful, poignant, reassuring, reflective, respectful, reverent, romantic, sentimental, serene, sympathetic, wistful, zealous

Neutral tone words:

commanding, direct, impartial, indirect, meditative, objective, questioning, speculative, unambiguous, unconcerned, understated

Negative tone words:

abhorring, ambiguous, ambivalent, angry, annoyed, antagonistic, apathetic, apprehensive, belligerent, bewildered, biting, bitter, blunt, condescending, confused, contemptuous, cynical, demanding, depressed, derogatory, desolate, despairing, desperate, detached, disappointed, disrespectful, doubtful, embarrassed, enraged, evasive, fearful, forceful, foreboding, frantic, frightened, frustrated, furious, hopeless, hostile, impatient, incredulous, indifferent, indignant, inflammatory, insecure, insolent, irreverent, lethargic, melancholy, mischievous, miserable, mocking, mournful, nervous, outraged, pedantic, pensive, pessimistic, pretentious, reticent, sarcastic, sardonic, scornful, severe, skeptical, stressful, suspicious, tense, threatening

Word Lists for Creative Writing