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Punctuation Marks

Punctuation marks can get you out of a lot of trouble. If used correctly they create effect and keep the reader’s interest, if used incorrectly or too much they slow your work down and bore.

1)    Hyphen –

Hyphen is used to connect words that act as a single idea, usually before a noun. Don’t use with adverbs (-ly). Do not hyphenate fractions introduced with indefinite articles a or an.


  • Before a noun

State-of-the-art design, 25-year-old midfielder, pin-point crossing, goal-scoring charts, etc.

  • To signify a single idea

Wide-eyed, no-brainer, re-elect, ex-player, world-class, pre-assister, etc.

Hyphenate spans of distance or time:

1998-2002, 40-50 yards, etc.


2)    Em dash —

This is the king of punctuation marks and your right-hand man when trouble hits. Use its power wisely. It can take over the places of the parentheses, comma and colon.

  • When you need to provide explanation for something, squeeze it with em dashes on both sides.


Thousands of children—like the girl you know—have been left homeless.

  • To provide context or add further explanation to your idea in the sentence.


He had a thunderous shot and steel nerved in front of goal—qualities meant for a key figure in a double-winning squad.

3)    Colon   :

  • To introduce an item or a list of items.


You know what to do: practice.

Here are the top 10 fighters in boxing history: (list).

  • To show result


He got what he worked for: a promotion.

  • Use it in two independent sentences if the second one explains, illustrates, paraphrases or expands on the first.


      He got what he worked for: he really earned that promotion.

4)    Semicolon    ;

  • Use it to split sentence that are related and work together.


Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil.

An interesting case here if you want to use the em dash:

Some people write with a word processor; other—with a pen or pencil.

The sentence is a bit slow but grammatically correct.


5)    Comma      ,

  • To separate elements in a series, insert and in the last one.

We had eggs, bacon, and tea.

  • In two independent sentences linked together with but or and.

He scored a terrific goal, but not before he suffered.

  • When starting a sentence with a dependent clause

Upon his return, Pires hit top gear again.

You don’t need a coma the other way around.

Pires hit top gear again upon his return.

  • To identify something or someone when context is taken into consideration.

My brother Tim is here.

This suggests of the speaker may have more than one brother.

My brother, Tim, is here.

He only has one brother.

  • Separate day and month from the year.

June 25, 2005

  • Use comma to introduce a quote.

Ferguson said, “I don’t care.”

6)    Apostrophe  ‘s

  • To show possession

Henry’s goals led Arsenal to the title.

  • With plural use only the apostrophe without the (s)

The footballers’ wives got drunk. 


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