Online Writing Center
Darton State College
*For information on the use of commas and semicolons,
please see additional documents in the Online Writing
• Colons signal “note what follows.”
• Use a colon before a list of items when adding such
expressions as “as follows” and “the following” or when any
connecting expression is missing:
• Europe’s major rivers are as follows: Volga, Danube, Ural,
Rhine, Elbe, and Loire.
• There are seven major rivers in Europe: Volga, Danube,
Ural, Rhine, Elbe, and Loire.
• Do not use the colon with words such as “as” “that” “are”:
*The seven major rivers are: Volga, Danube, Ural, Rhine,
Elbe, and Loire.
* Incorrect sentence.
• Use a colon before a long, formal statement or
Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court of the United
States delivered the opinion of the Court in Arizona vs.
United States: “The federal power to determine immigration
policy is well settled. Immigration policy can affect trade,
investment, tourism, and diplomatic relations for the entire
Nation, as well as the perceptions and expectations of aliens in
this country who seek the full protection of its laws. [ ] Perceived
mistreatment of aliens in the United States may lead to harmful
reciprocal treatment of the American citizens abroad.”
• Use a colon between two independent clauses when
the second clause explains the first:
• Accurate punctuation is necessary in all forms of writing:
*It avoids confusion, ensures the comprehension of the
message, and allows smooth communication.
• * The first word after a colon should be capitalized.
• Use a colon between the hour and the minute:
• Use a colon between titles and subtitles (even if no
colon is inserted in the original title):
The Sundance Writer: A Rhetoric, Reader, and Research Guide.
• Use quotation marks to enclose people’s exact words:
George Louise Buffon said, “To write well is to think well, to feel
well, and to render well; it is to possess at once an intellect, soul,
and taste” (qtd in Pell 7).
• In the above example, the quotation begins with a capital letter. When
a quotation is integrated into your sentence, do not capitalize the first
Buffon remarked that writing well means “to possess at once an
intellect, soul, and taste.”
• Single quotation marks are used inside double quotation marks:
Thomas Carlyle wrote the following criticism about one of Robert
Browning’s poems: “My wife has read through ‘Sordello’ without being
able to make out whether ‘Sordello’ was a man, or a city, or a book”
(qtd in Dexter 110).
• Use ellipsis points to indicate omissions from quoted
• If the omitted material comes at the end of the quote,
insert three points for the omission, followed by a
• If the omitted material is mid-text, insert three points.
• If the omitted material is the entire line or more of a
poem, fill an entire line with points.
• *Apostrophes are used to show possession:
• Mary’s house
• the Martins’ pets
• Apostrophes are also used to indicate omission of
letters, as in contractions, such as
we’d, wouldn’t, it’s, can’t, o’clock (of the clock), we’ve
• Use apostrophes to form some plurals:
P’s and Q’s , 3’s, Ph.D.’s, CD’s
*For a discussion on the apostrophe’s uses in showing possession, please see “Plural
vs. Possessive” in the Online Writing Center.
• Use a hyphen to divide a word at the end of the line.
• Hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one to
ninety-nine and fractions used as adjectives:
• eighty-eight, three-fourths majority
• Hyphenate words when they form one adjective:
• well-respected physicist
• global-warming enthusiast
• community-college student
• Use a hyphen with prefixes and suffixes:
• self-assured (prefix –self)
• Fat-free (suffix –free)
• great-grandmother (prefix –great)
• ex-murderer (prefix –ex)
• Dashes fulfill the purpose of indicating when a word or a
word group interrupts a sentence. Such interruption is
often set off by commas or by parenthesis. Dashes convey a
more sudden, perhaps a more thoughtful, more
“I shot him dead—
Because he was my foe,
He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand—just as I—
Was out of work—had sold his traps—
No other reason why.” (from Thomas Hardy “The Man He Killed”)
• The main purpose of parenthesis in a sentence is to enclose
information of minor importance.
• London (the one in Canada) is David’s birthplace.
• The famous castle is two miles (about five minutes by car)
away from my house.
• Parentheses also enclose information that can stand alone
as a sentence:
• Commas should not precede parentheses but can follow them
(see more about the uses of commas later on).
• Parentheses are also used to enclose citations inside texts:
• John Ruskin said, “All books are divisible into two classes, the
books of the hour and the books of all time” (qtd. in Pell 25).
• Use brackets ton indicate alterations to quotations:
• Evelyn Waugh summed up his opinion of a fellow writer
as such: “[Marcel Proust’s work is] such a lot of
nonsense.” (The information in brackets was not part of
the original words written by Waugh.)
• Use brackets when indicating with sic that a quotation
contains an error:
• Samuel Johnson on Shakespeare: “Shakspeare [sic] never
has six lines together without a fault” (qtd. in Dexter 22).
Dexter, Gary, ed. Poisoned Pens: Literary Invective from Amis to Zola.
London: Frances Lincoln, Ltd., 2009. Print.
Odell, Lee, Richard Vacca, and Renee Hobbs. Elements of Language. 6 th
course. Austin, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 2001. Print.
Pell, Janet Alexander. Quotes for Writing. Newport, RI: Self-published,