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Following the Rules of Punctuation

Here are some rules of punctuation you need to follow on your next writing assignment.

Question Marks

Only use question marks at the end of direct questions, replacing the period. Do not write: "I'm asking if you will go to the dance with me?" You generally do not use question marks for rhetorical questions: "Why don't you rest a bit," or "What wouldn't I do for a Klondike bar!" When a quotation is involved, include the question mark within the quotation marks if the original quotation was a question. For example: I asked her, "Are you still my friend?"

Exclamation Points

Exclamation points express surprise, emphasis, or emotion. They replace periods at the end of a sentence. You should avoid using exclamation points in formal writing, unless it is really warranted.

Using Dashes

Dashes introduce an added emphasis, an interruption, or a change of thought. They are subtly different than commas, semicolons, and other punctuations used for the same purpose. Use your discretion for which is best in the circumstance. Notice how the dash changes the tone of this sentence: "John, my only friend, came to help me move" vs. "John – my only friend – came to help me move."

How to Use Semicolons

A semicolon is a period atop a comma for a reason- they are just short of a full stop. Use a semicolon to connect two complete sentences you want to join together. "I ate at the Thai restaurant; the food was delicious." You should also place a semicolon before words such as "however," "therefore," and "for example" when these are followed by complete sentences. "I brought 100 hundred sandwiches; however, they were not enough to feed the class." Semicolons can also replace commas to separate list items or independent clauses when these contain commas. "I went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Cleveland, Ohio; and Miami, Florida."

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