Inver Hills Community College


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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions




What are basic definitions and uses of major punctuation?



Very Brief Guide to Punctuation


"Fact Hit"

Common Comma Rules

Shortcuts for Avoiding Common Mistakes


Also See "Spell and Grammar Check" in the "What Is 'Revising'?" chapter.


This chapter is about punctuation and related matters.  It reviews basic punctuation marks, explains "fanboys" conjunctions and "fact hit" conjunctive adverbs, summarizes basic comma rules, and offers a number of shortcuts for avoiding common mistakes--all with examples.


Very Brief Guide to Punctuation

. ? !

Periods (.), question marks (?), and exclamation points (!) show the ending of sentences.


 Commas show pauses, and they generally are used according to specific rules.


Semicolons show stronger pauses; use one to replace a period as a sort of "soft period" that allows the two sentences to be more closely connected.  Use two or more as what might be called "super commas," primarily to make a list of lists, dividing the smaller lists from each other with semicolons.


Usually, what comes before a colon is the general statement and must be a complete sentence.  And what comes after is a list, explanation, or detail that may or may not be a complete sentence.  A colon also can be used to lead into an indented quotation, as in this sentence: "Smith says the following:".

" "

Double quotation marks (" ") are placed around quoted words and short titles. 

'  '

If you need a quotation within a quotation, use single quotation marks ('   ') inside double quotation marks ("  '  '   ").

( )

Parentheses ( ) enclose words or phrases that seem like explanations on the side--quiet, secondary words.  You may write a few words or even a complete sentence in them.  The rest of the sentence must be a grammatical whole--a complete sentence--without the material in parentheses.

[ ]

Brackets [ ] are used in quotations when you are explaining or summarizing some of the quoted words in your own words: e.g., in the quotation "Romeo loved well," you might want to explain the quote better by adding a word: "Romeo loved [Juliet] well." 

( [ ] )

If you need parentheses inside of parentheses, use brackets inside of parentheses.


Hyphens connect two words or divide one word into syllables on two lines.

-- --


Dashes (typed as two pairs of short hyphens) are used as if they are interrupting or emphatic parentheses.  (MS Word often will automatically turn each pair of hyphens into one longer dash.)


Diagonal slashes mean "and/or." 

They also are used in web addresses.


Asterisks are like footnote marks: 1 in the text, & 1 at the end (where you explain).


Ampersands mean "and." They're not used formally except in  a title or quotation.


Use italics for titles of long works such as books, newspapers, magazines, a TV series, or an album of songs.


 Use "quotation marks" for titles of short works such as articles, essays, short newsletters, one episode of a TV series, or a single song.

"x . . . x"

An ellipsis (3 dots) shows you have left some words out of the middle of a quotation.

"x. . . ."

A period followed by an ellipsis shows you have left some words out at the end of a quoted sentence.


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"Fanboys" is a mnemonic or memory device used in some grammar handbooks for remembering the seven most important conjunctions.  These seven conjunctions include the most common three--"and," "or," and "but."  They also include four more, as below.  When such conjunctions are used between simple objects (for example, "stone and earth," "plastic or paper"), they do not usually have commas before them.  However, if conjunctions are used between two independent clauses, they do require commas before them (unless the two clauses are very short.  What is an independent clause?  It is a clause that can stand on its own--independently.  A complete sentence is an independent clause.  See "Chapter 11. Sentences" for an explanation of an independent clause.  In the language of that chapter, an independent clause is a "peacock."  Here are some examples of independent clauses:

"I love going to town."

"My friends like to go with me." 

If you put these two independent clauses together, you use a comma-conjunction to do it.  The easiest comma-conjunction to use is ", and":

"I love going to town, and my friends like to go with me."

Two other comma-conjunctions that could be used are ", for" and ", so":

"I love going to town, for my friends like to go with me."

"I love going to town, so my friends like to go with me."

These seven "fanboys" conjunctions are so important because they are one way to make short, choppy sentences flow together better.  In addition, they also are a cure for what is perhaps the single most identifiable and worst type of college-level punctuation error: the comma splice.  A comma splice is two independent clauses (like two sentences) stuck together without a "fanboys" word between them.  Here are two examples (with the middles crossed out to emphasize they are incorrect):

"I love going to town, my friends like to go with me."

"We got to town, three of them went to eat and two to buy gas."

Again, this is perhaps the most common highly-noticeable punctuation error you can make on a college or professional paper, so you need to avoid it.  And the easiest way to avoid it, often, is to simply add a "fanboys" word between the two independent clauses, along with a comma before it.  There are more conjunctions than just "fanboys," but they are the main ones.  Here are the "fanboys" conjunctions:

"Fanboys" Conjunctions




, for

We went downtown, for I wanted to have a good time.


, and

We went downtown, and I had a good time.


, nor

He did not have a good time, nor did Shannon.


, but

We went downtown, but I didn't have a good time.


, or

Do you want to go downtown, or would you rather stay?


, yet

We went downtown, yet I still didn't have a good time.


, so

They wanted to go downtown, so I went with them.


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"Fact Hit"

"Fact hit" is another memory device (an earlier version of which was invented by Jason Miller of Inver Hills Community College).  It is similar to "fanboys."

However, "fact hit" is a device to remember "conjunctive adverbs."  Conjunctive adverbs are another type of word that can go between independent clauses.  They also help cure the deadly comma splice.  Here are three sets of sentences.  The first in each set had an unallowable comma splice (with a strikethrough to show it is wrong); the second sentence in each set shows the comma splice being cured by a conjunctive adverb (with bold underlining).

I love baseball, I also like to cook.
I love baseball; however, I also like to cook.

You praise everyone, you tend to see only the best in them.
You praise everyone; therefore, you tend to see only the best in them.

Washington was very honest, he expected it of the nation.
Washington was very honest; consequently, he expected it of the nation.

The corrected versions not only are grammatically correct but, more important, they provide a better, more easily understood transition from the first idea to the second in each sentence.  Here is the "fact hit" chart.  There are many more, but these are among the most common.  Note that they always come with a semicolon before them, and usually a comma after them (except "thus" because it is just one syllable):

"Fact Hit" Conjunctive Adverbs




; furthermore,

We believe in life; furthermore, we encourage living to the fullest.


; as a result,

Life is short; as a result, humans learn too little.


; consequently,

I acted poorly; consequently, I paid a price.


; therefore,

I hurt a friend; therefore, I hurt myself as well.


; however,

Sometimes I love life; however, it can be hard, too.


; in turn,

I try to do good; in turn, I hope it is done to me.


; thus

Pleasure passes; thus we need to be ethical.


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Common Comma Rules

            Do you hate commas? Do you never know what to do with them or what not? Believe it or not, comma rules actually exist to help. They may feel like they are not very much help to you as a writer; however, they are quite helpful to readers. Comma rules actually are fairly basic and consistent. Some of the most common ones are discussed below.

            First, though, you need to be aware of two major comma don’ts. These don’ts are poor but popular methods of dealing with commas, each of which may cause a major visit from the grammar police. One is the avoid-commas-totally-and-hope-no-one-notices method. If this is your style, you probably use it because it seems safer than making many comma errors. Unfortunately, this method makes your writing more difficult to read: on the one hand, your long sentences will be confusing to read because they lack commas; on the other, you may have a tendency to use many more short sentences, which makes your writing sound choppy and unprofessional. Either way, you cannot win.

            The other poor but popular method of dealing with commas is the commas-as-salt-and-pepper method: you know you need commas, so you figure that if you sprinkle them all over your paper (lightly or heavily, to taste), you might be okay. This method also makes papers difficult to read. Readers unconsciously have certain expectations of where commas will and will not be, precisely because there are consistent comma rules. Salting and peppering your paper with commas will, once again, make your sentences hard to read.

            Here are some thumbnail guidelines that may help you with commas.  They might help you stay out of punctuation jail.


RIGHT: We went to town last night with friends, and we had a good time at the dance.

RIGHT: We will stay home tonight, but we’ll manage to enjoy ourselves there, too.

RIGHT: We need to find more places to go, or we may have difficulty finding variety.

WRONG: We enjoy going out with friends and relatives who are nice are fun, too.

Explanation: When you have two sentences made into one by a dividing conjunction (and, or, but, etc.), you need to have a comma between them. (The two connected sentences are called "independent clauses," which means simply that each could be a sentence standing by itself with a period at its end.)

Exception: If one of the two connected sentences is very short, then you may choose to omit the comma (if doing so does not lead to reader confusion).

RIGHT: We went to town and I saw many people.

RIGHT: We went to town, and I saw many people.

WRONG: I saw Tim and Harry and Jim saw Susan.



RIGHT: We enjoyed ourselves, but then we went home.

RIGHT: At home we let the cat out and then went to bed.

RIGHT: Before bed we had milk and cookies.

WRONG: Then we crawled between the covers, and soon were fast asleep.

WRONG: We had many good dreams, and some bad ones.

Explanation: Using a conjunction (and, or, but, et al.) is not in itself a reason to use a comma. A conjunction that divides two sentence units placed together (as in a. above) does need a comma before it. And a series of items (e.g., pears, peaches, or apples) may have a comma before its conjunction (see d. below). However, there are many other uses of conjunctions in which you cannot add commas before them. As a general guideline, avoid using a comma before a conjunction unless you know of a specific rule for doing so.



RIGHT: In the morning before we left the house, we fed the dog.

RIGHT: Using the can opener that we took from the drawer, my friend opened the food.

RIGHT: Slowly and carefully in order not to slip on the waxed floor, the dog trotted over.

WRONG: If in doubt about the food his dog will start sniffing it carefully.

WRONG: In the morning, in the kitchen, when he is hungry, sometimes, he will howl.

Explanation: A long introductory phrase should have a comma at its end before the subject-verb part of the sentence begins. If there are several introductory phrases (as in the first sentence above), usually they are placed beside each other with no commas; however, do have a comma at the end of them—before the subject-verb part of the sentence begins.

Exception: You may omit the comma if the introductory phrase is short (and omitting the comma will not lead to reader confusion):

RIGHT: After dawn he gets very hungry.

RIGHT: After dawn, he gets very hungry.

WRONG: After leaving Janet and Jim hurry to work.

Hint: In general it is wise to avoid writing a large number of sentences with long introductory phrases. If you have a large number of them, your writing will be more difficult to read (because the reader has to remember the contents of each introductory phrase and cannot apply these contents until her eyes finally arrive at the subject of the sentence. The more often and the longer you make her wait, the more difficulty she will have reading your writing. Some introductory phrases are good for variety, if you wish, and short introductory phrases usually do not slow down the average adult reader.

If you have a tendency to write too many long introductory phrases, you should learn to fix them in the editing phase (not necessarily the first rough drafts) of your writing. The way to revise them is to keep them, but place them at the ends of sentences instead of the beginnings (see below).

Exception to the hint: Long, introductory phrases—even many of them in sequence—are not difficult to understand if they are what is called "dependent clauses," which means that they have their own little subjects and verbs within them. For example, the phrases "If I feed him well" and "When I leave the house," though not complete sentences that could stand alone, do have their own subjects and verbs; hence they are dependent clauses, and they are easily readable.)



RIGHT: We fed the dog in the morning before we left the house.

RIGHT: My friend opened the food using the can opener that we took from the drawer.

RIGHT: The dog trotted over slowly and carefully in order not to slip on the waxed floor.

WRONG: He will start sniffing it carefully, if he’s in doubt about the food.

Explanation: The kind of phrase that can be an introductory phrase (with a comma after it) at the beginning of a sentence is punctuated differently at the end of the same sentence. At a sentence’s end, the same phrase should not be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma.

Exception: Sometimes a phrase of the type discussed in b. and c. above also or alternately can be an "interrupter" word or phrase (see below).



RIGHT: We ate corn, peas, and carrots for dinner.

RIGHT: We ate corn, peas and carrots for dinner.

WRONG: We ate corn peas and carrots for dinner.

WRONG: We ate corn and peas and carrots for dinner.

RIGHT: That is a long, hard, slippery slope ahead. (…a hard, slippery, long slope ahead.)

WRONG: It leads to a deep narrow rocky ravine.

Explanation: Use commas to divide the items of a series. You may use a comma before the "and" as well (the traditional and academic method, as in the first example above), or you may skip the comma before the "and" (the journalists’ method, as in the second example above). However, whichever method you use, be consistent.

A series of adjectives may or may not need commas: if the adjectives are interchangeable or can take the word "and" between them, then use commas. If not, then do not.

If you can join the adjectives with the word "and" or if they can be interchanged with each other in a different order (as above), then you need commas between them. (In such a situation, the adjectives are called "coordinate.")

If you cannot join the adjectives with the word "and" or reverse their order (as cannot be done below in "two fresh string beans"), then do not add commas. No commas are needed because each adjective in turn modifies the whole phrase that comes after it. For example, in the sentence below, the word "fresh" is describing one item that is called "string beans." And the word "two" is describing one item that is called "fresh string beans." (In such a situation, the adjectives are called "cumulative.")

RIGHT: We ate two fresh string beans.

WRONG: We ate two, fresh, string beans. We ate two and fresh and string beans.

WRONG: We ate string, fresh, two beans.


(f.) TWO COMMAS (or two long dashes or two parentheses ) FOR AN INTERRUPTER WORD OR PHRASE

RIGHT: We cannot leave our homework, three heavy books, at school when we leave.

RIGHT: It is tempting, however, to leave the homework—all of it—in my locker.

RIGHT: The homework is (unfortunately) very difficult to do this time.

WRONG: I must take it my unpleasant homework home however so I can try to study it.

WRONG: I will, I promise study it and, consequently learn.

Explanation: Usually you will not need to use a single, stand-alone comma in a sentence when there is no long introductory phrase and no series of items. Most of the time, if you do need a comma for something else, you will need a pair, not just one. The kinds of words and phrases that require a pair of commas also usually could have a pair of dashes, -- --, or a pair of parentheses, ( ), around them. Such words and phrases sometimes are called "interrupter" words and phrases because they interrupt the flow of the sentence AND could be removed completely from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. If you remove each of the interrupter phrases above, you will see that they are not necessary for the basic meaning of the sentences. They just add more information or interesting detail for the reader.

Exception: If the interrupter word or phrase occurs at the very beginning or very end of the sentence, use just one comma. Do not use two, but do not skip a comma, either:

RIGHT: However, it is tempting to leave the homework at school, all of it.

WRONG: ,However, it is tempting to leave the homework at school, all of it,.

WRONG: However it is tempting to leave the homework at school all of it.


RIGHT: My only sister, Jan, lives in Michigan.

RIGHT: In my family, Jan, my sister, lives in Michigan.

RIGHT: My daughter Jessica lives in Minnesota. [I have two daughters.]

RIGHT: My younger daughter, Marian, lives in Minnesota, too.

RIGHT: Bill Clinton, President of the United States, lives in Washington, D.C.

GUIDELINE: If I have two brothers, then "my brother Bill is here" is correct.

If I have one brother, then "my brother, Bill, is here" is correct.

Explanation: If I have only one sister and I want to identify her as an individual, I only need to write "my sister" or "Jan." I do not need to say both. Therefore, if I do write both, the second occurrence is an interrupter, and it should have two commas around it. (The second occurrence is called a "nonrestrictive" element.)

However, if I have two daughters, then referring to one of them by name is not additional, unnecessary information. Rather, it actually helps restrict, define, or limit the meaning to just one individual. Therefore, the commas are not needed. (The second occurrence is called a "restrictive" element.)

Hint: There are many other forms of restrictive and nonrestrictive words and phrases. Just remember that one kind—the kind that appears to offer no new defining information, thus acting like an interrupter—needs two commas, one on each side of it. The other kind needs no commas.



RIGHT: Whoever walks, walks quietly.

WRONG: Whoever runs runs loudly.

Explanation: Occasionally a comma is necessary to keep a reader from becoming confused. Often a sentence can be rewritten to make better sense and avoid an extra sentence; however, if the clearest, most efficient way of writing the sentence requires the use of an extra comma for clarity, such a comma is helpful.


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Shortcuts for Avoiding Common Mistakes
(of Punctuation, Usage, Spelling, et al.)


RIGHT: Our dog is purebred; it is a husky. WRONG: Our dog is purebred, it is a husky.

RIGHT: Our dog is purebred: it is a husky. RIGHT: Our dog is purebred and is a husky.

RIGHT: Our dog is purebred, and it is a husky. RIGHT: Our dog is purebred, a husky.

Explanation: Do not divide two complete sentences with just a comma. Test each questionable comma with a period: if a period can be placed there, then you must use the period, a semicolon (;), or a comma and a conjunction (e.g., "and," "but," "or," "so," "for," or "yet"). Most commonly, what people want in such a situation is a semicolon or, perhaps, a comma and a conjunction.

EXCEPTION: Some fiction, advertising, tabloid newspapers, and magazines contain comma splices, especially in dialogue. However, in the formal styles of English--whether professional, academic, or literary--comma splices are considered unnecessary and unacceptable.


RIGHT: We had a good time--what a night! WRONG: We had a good time. What a night!

RIGHT: We were right. Anyone could tell. WRONG: We were right. As anyone could tell.

RIGHT: It is hard, which can happen. WRONG: It is hard. Which can happen.

Explanation: Sometimes fragments may seem like a convenient and acceptable way to emphasize a phrase or make a strong point. However, fragments are not acceptable in formal writing, whether professional or academic. In addition, usually the desired emphasis can be kept with careful punctuation, as above.

EXCEPTION: Fragments occasionally are necessary in quotations in order to quote the speakers (or writers) accurately. Fragments also are common in informal writing, especially in advertising, and in some forms of creative writing.


RIGHT: Our list includes pears, peas, and pop.

WRONG: Our list includes: pears, peas, and pop.

Explanation: Do not use a colon in a normal sentence that does not require one. A colon should have before it a complete sentence that could take a period:

We have made a list today: pears, peas, and pop.

Our list includes the following foods: pears, peas, and pop.

We eat well: we buy only healthy foods.

EXCEPTION: Business, technical, and journalistic writing may allow an incomplete sentence and a colon before a list which is in a column:

RIGHT: Our list includes:



RIGHT: However, we might go.

WRONG: Although, we might go.

Explanation: "Although" cannot substitute for "However" at the beginning of a simple sentence. By using "Although" in this situation, you create a sentence fragment (just as if you mistakenly considered "When we might go" to be a complete sentence).

EXCEPTION: If "Although" is the start of an introductory phrase, and this phrase is followed by a complete sentence, then "Although" may be used:

RIGHT: Although we might go, we are not yet prepared for it.


RIGHT: ten, one hundred, 101, one thousand.

WRONG: 10, 100, one hundred one, 1000.

Explanation: In MLA style (used in most composition and literature classrooms), numbers should be in letter form when they require only one or two written words; for three or more words, use numerals. NOTE: Other styles--e.g., APA, Chicago, CSE, et al. may have somewhat different requirements.

EXCEPTION: In a sentence or paragraph, if you must use several numbers, one of which must be in numeric form (e.g., 101), then all similar numbers in that sentence or paragraph should be in numeric form.

EXCEPTION: In some forms of business, technical, mathematic, and scientific writing, numbers commonly are in numeric form when grouped in detailed explanations or in lists, charts, or tables. Even so, paragraphs of general information with simple numbers should follow the above rule about spelling numbers in word form.


RIGHT: Our need--the problem--is clear.

WRONG: Our need - the problem - is clear.

WRONG: Our need -- the problem -- is clear.

WRONG: Our need-the problem-is clear.

Explanation: In articles and books, sometimes the authors use a long dash (--). However, on most of our printers and typewriters, no long dash exists. As a result, we must use the hyphen (-) twice (--) to substitute for a long dash. There should be no space before or after it.

EXCEPTION: If you are making a hyphenated word, use just one hyphen (-) with no spaces.


RIGHT: First Point


RIGHT: First Point

WRONG: First Point: Chang-tze argues that. . . .

Explanation: Usually subtitles should be in normally typed letters that are underlined, and only the first letter (or the first letter of each word) should be capitalized. In addition, subtitles usually stand alone on a line; the text that goes with them follows beneath them in a new paragraph.

EXCEPTION: If you need to use sub-subtitles (subtitles within an already subtitled section), these sub-subtitles may be placed at the beginnings of paragraphs such that text follows them, and in some situations, they may be written in bold and/or all in capital letters. (However, usually they are not underlined, so that they remain less noticeable than the main, underlined subtitles.)


RIGHT: She read "Circus," and she said, "Hi."

WRONG: "She read "Circus", and she said, "Hi".

RIGHT She read "Why Travel?" and said, "Wow!"

Explanation: When words or a title are placed in quotation marks, even if only one word is used, an ending comma or period must be placed inside of the final set of quotation marks. The same is true of a question mark (?) or exclamation point (!) if the "?" or "!" are part of the quoted words.

EXCEPTION: If a quotation or short title is followed immediately by a parenthetical citation, then the punctuation should be placed after the citation:

RIGHT: According to Smith, a good article to read is "Circus" (16).

RIGHT: Smith asked, "How can anyone dislike the circus" (16)?

EXCEPTION: If a "?" or "!" is not part of the quotation but rather belongs to the surrounding, unquoted sentence--the "?" or "!" should be placed after the quotation marks:

RIGHT: Why did you say, "Washington never lied"?

RIGHT: I can't believe you read "Eating Prunes Today"!

EXCEPTION: Many other countries require that commas and periods be placed outside of the quotation marks, as you may find when researching materials from such countries or when watching some foreign movies with English subtitles:

RIGHT IN NON-U.S. COUNTRIES: She read an article called "The Arts", and she said "Hi".


RIGHT: Jones said, "This works."

WRONG: Jones said "This works."

RIGHT: Jones said, "This works."

WRONG: Jones said that "This works."

RIGHT: Jones said, "This works."

WRONG: Jones said that, "This works."

RIGHT: Jones said, "This works."

WRONG: Jones said that "this works."

Explanation: When starting a quotation of a complete sentence, lead into it with a word or phrase and a comma: for example: "said," "says," "states," "writes," "According to [Author]," and similar words. The first letter of the quotation should be a capital letter if, in the original source, the letter was capitalized.

EXCEPTION: If you have constructed your lead-in in such a way that using a comma before the quotation would be incorrect, then you may change the first letter of the quotation to a small letter by using brackets:

RIGHT: Jones has reported that most of the time "[t]his works."


RIGHT: Hanson said, "We are right" (16).

WRONG: Hanson said, "We are right"(16).

RIGHT: Hanson said, "We are right" (p. 16).

WRONG: Hanson said, "We are right." (p.16)

RIGHT: Hanson said, "We are right" (p 16).

WRONG: Hanson said, "We are right." (p16).

Explanation: When using parenthetical citation ( ), use correct spacing and placement of the period. The first example, above, is shown in MLA style (__), the second in APA (p. __), and the third in CBE (p __). Avoid mixing styles.



Xxxxx, Xxxxx. Xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx

        xxxxx. Xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx.


Xxxxx, Xxxxx. Xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx

        xxxxx. Xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx.


        Xxxxx, Xxxxx. Xxxxxxxxxx xx xxxxx

xxxxx xxx. Xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxx.

Explanation: MLA requires what is called a "hanging indent," so called because the first line "hangs" on the left over empty space. The second, third, fourth, et al. lines must be indented about one-half inch. APA publishes in a hanging indent, too, and many grammar books suggest typing hanging-indent bibliography entries. However, the correct way to type (not publish) APA entries, according to the official APA stylebook, is to use normal paragraph indentations as above, indenting the first line (only) of each entry about one-half inch. If your article is published, then the editors will convert your paragraph indents to hanging indents. Usually the instructor of a course decides which version of APA he/she wants, so ask your instructor first.


ORIGINAL QUOTE: Vasquez said, "Use it carefully. Knowledge is a precious thing."

RIGHT: Vasquez said, "Use [knowledge] carefully."

WRONG: "Use (knowledge) carefully."

Explanation: You may replace or explain words or phrases with your own words or phrases, as long as your own are placed in brackets [ ]. Do not use parentheses ( ).

EXCEPTION: If you simply wish to leave out words instead, use an ellipsis ( . . . ):

RIGHT: Vasquez said, "Knowledge is . . . precious. . . ."


RIGHT: "Trees grow . . . at the U campus."

WRONG: "Trees the U campus."

RIGHT: "Trees grow . . . at the U campus."

WRONG: "Trees grow ... at the U campus."

RIGHT: "Trees grow here at the U. . . ."

WRONG: "Trees grow here at the U .... "

Explanation: When using an ellipsis ( . . . ) in the middle of a sentence, use four spaces. When using an ellipsis at the end of a sentence, add a final period so there are four periods, and do not have a space before or after the four periods. (One simple way to remember ellipsis use is to say, "Three periods & four spaces; four periods & three spaces.")

EXCEPTION: If you have a citation in parentheses at the end of a quotation, an ellipsis looks like this: "Trees grow here. . ." (65).

EXCEPTION: If you are writing a finished work that you, yourself, will publish--such as in loading a web page--then you show ellipses in their published form: with no spaces anywhere before or after them: "Trees grow here..." (65).


RIGHT: Smith said that "when. . . ."

WRONG: Smith said that ". . . when. . . ."

RIGHT: Smith said that "when. . . ."

WRONG: Smith said that "When. . . ."

RIGHT: Smith said, "[W]hen. . . ."

WRONG: Smith said, "When. . . ."

Explanation: If, in a quotation, you choose to leave out the beginning words of a sentence, do not use an ellipsis--simply start the quotation right after the quotation marks. Try to do so with a letter that is not capitalized, just as in the original sentence; construct your own wording to lead into the this word comfortably. However, if you want to use a capital letter, show the change with brackets.


RIGHT: "They ate food. . . . They drank."

WRONG: "They ate food . . . they drank."

RIGHT: "They ate food [and] drank."

WRONG: "They ate food and they drank."

Explanation: Do not ever divide two sentences of a quotation with just an ellipsis: doing so is grammatically incorrect and creates something akin to a comma splice (an "ellipsis splice"?). Be sure to provide a fourth period for the previous sentence, and a capital letter for the following sentence. An alternative is to place a conjunction (and, or, but, et al.) in brackets between the two sentences, turning them into one normally acceptable sentence.


RIGHT: Burger et al. argued well.

WRONG: Burger, et al. argued well.

RIGHT: Burger et al. argued well.

WRONG: Burger et. al. argued well.

Explanation: "Et al." is short for "et alia" which means, in Latin, "and others." Do not put a period after "et" because "et" is a complete word, not an abbreviation. In addition, do not put a comma before "et" because the word simply means "and," and no comma would go before "and" in a similar situation.

EXCEPTION: If you have a series of at least two names and an "et al.," then you may use a comma as appropriate, just as you would with a series of three or more names:

RIGHT: Burger, Medwaton, et al. = Burger, Medwaton, and others


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C. Revise/Edit

Click on any chapter below:


14. What Is "Revising"?

15. Peacock Sentences

16. Peacock Punctuation

17. Punctuation Review

18. 5 Special Methods

19. Typing/Printing

20Revision Checklist




 Related Links in

  5. Choosing Words

  6. Making Sentences

  8. General Editing

  9. Spelling

10. Punctuation

11. Grammar Guides

13. Help for ESL/NNS

15. Writing Books & Tutors

19. Visual/Other Design                


Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
Images courtesy of Barry's Clip Art, Clip Art Warehouse, The Clip Art Universe, Clipart Collection, MS Clip Art Gallery and Design Gallery Live, School Discovery, and Web Clip Art
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