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Punctuation and Sentence Structure
|Transition words||However, we will meet the public's demands.|
|Phrases||In the morning, the usual routine is to eat by eight o'clock.|
|Dependent Clause||After I shower in the morning, the first thing I do is get some coffee.|
If you read these sentences aloud, you can hear the pause that comes at the end of the introductory element. The comma captures and signals this pause.
3) To separate interrupting
elements (also called non-essential elements)
Interrupting elements are any extra information that is placed in the middle of the sentence which could be taken out without upsetting the "core" of the sentence. There are three ways to separate:
Using Commas George Washington, our first President, liked to chop down trees. Using Dashes If I knew where to go--which I don't--then we wouldn't be lost.
(site on using dashes)
(this is like a whisper in your reader's ear)
When Hardy died (it's a pity he had to), he left no will.
Notice that each of these interrupting elements could be pulled out of the sentence and it would still make sense (e.g. When Hardy died, he left no will).
4) To separate items in a list. There are two ways:
A) Using commas
example: I went to the store and bought eggs, milk, and butter.
** The comma between the last two items is optional.**
B) Using semi-colons (usually used to separate longer items that contain commas within them)
example: In the past five years, I have lived in a grey, two-story house; a white, one-story house with a pool; and a two-bedroom apartment.
More on using semi-colons--powerpoint
5) To point your reader's
attention to what you wish to highlight
Most often this involves a colon used to set up a list or to direct readers to explanations, examples, or significant phrases or words. Colons and dashes are used to focus the reader's attention on what follows.
A) Using colons
My house is a mess: the outside needs paint, the roof needs to be repaired, and the air-conditioning is broken.
There is one hope for our team: we need to win.
B) Using dashes
The dash can also be used for a concluding statement, especially one which you want to emphasize. (more on dashe)
There is one hope for our team--we need to win.
Sometimes we forget what Hamlet was asked to do--murder.
The sense of these sentences is that the first half of the sentence sets up something which the second half of the sentence completes. Before the colon or dash, it must be a complete sentence, but afterwards it could be a fragment.
The most important key to remember is to listen and use punctuation to capture your voice. Although many finer points to punctuation exist (and I recommend you consult your Handbook for a more detailed review), studying these five typical signals will help you on your way to punctuating correctly.
Video guide on editing using this guide on punctuation and sentence structure. See also one page "Doing! Punctuation" version of this guide.
See these additional links: Comma Usage from Grammar and Writing. Also, see this site on Punctuation.
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