The comma is a punctuation mark used to separate information within a sentence. Commas are used to separate the following:
- Three or more items in a list
- The recipe called for flour, eggs, and butter.
- Complete thoughts joined by a coordinating conjunction
- I went to the park, but John stayed home.
- A dependent clause from an independent clause
- Because it was raining, I decided not to go to the beach.
- A complete thought from its introduction
- Without proper guidance, children are likely to misbehave.
- Non-essential information
- The Citadel, a Halifax military landmark, has never been attacked.
A colon is a punctuation mark that is used after an independent clause to introduce information. It is most commonly used to introduce the following:
- The recipe called for the following ingredients: flour, eggs, and butter.
- The academic calendar is clear on what constitutes plagiarism: “The presentation of words, ideas or techniques of another as one's own.”
- I know just how to pass this test: study hard.
A semicolon is a punctuation mark used for the following purposes (and only these purposes):
- To emphasize the relationship between closely related independent clauses
- Public transportation is vital to city life; many people take the bus to work or school.
- To separate items in complex lists
- The family business team consists of Fred Harvey, president and father; Ruth Harvey, treasurer and mother; and Jack and John Harvey, salespeople and sons.
Semicolons should not be used in the following situations:
- To separate an independent clause from a dependent clause
- To separate introductory information in a sentence
- To start a list
The apostrophe is a punctuation mark used for the following purposes:
- To show possession
- Chocolate is Sam’s favorite ice cream flavor.
- To indicate letters left out of contractions
- Sam doesn’t mind vanilla ice cream.
Single Quotation Marks
Single quotation marks are used to indicate the following:
- Key terms or concepts
- A ‘gerund’ is a verb ending with -ing that acts as a noun.
- A quotation within a quotation
- “When I asked the professor how much this assignment was worth he just said ‘Check the syllabus,’ and walked away,” Jill explained.
Double Quotation Marks:
Double quotation marks are used to indicate the following:
- Speech or a quotation from a source
- Einstein said "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
- As scare quotes to indicate an alternate meaning than the word would normally imply
- Politicians say that they “care” about post-secondary student debt.
- The title of a poem or a journal article, for example
- “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is a poem by John Keats.
- In academic writing to indicate information that is from another source
- Rosemarie Morgan argues that “Hardy does appear to have had some faith in aesthetic distance” (Morgan 297).