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Ellipses, Quotations Marks, and Commas

Aug 30, 2022
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Read the following sentences: 

  1. Mark said, “I am going out to get some candles, flowers, and wine.” 
  2. Adam asked me, “Umm…could you hire me a taxi?” 
  3. George said to Tom, “You are extremely loud, annoying, and arrogant. 

While quoting what the people in question have said, we have tried to quote the exact words the speakers have said. Moreover, these words appear inside the signs “”. They are called quotation marks

Quotation marks, also known as quotes, are punctuation marks used in pairs that enclose the exact words, or sentences, to separate direct speech, a quotation, or a phrase in various writing systems. The pair is made up of an opening and closing quotation mark, which may or may not be the same character. 

The above sentences also make good use of the comma within the quotes. The comma is used to indicate a very short break within a sentence. It usually separates words, phrases, and ideas within a sentence. It is one of the most inappropriately and misused punctuations in English because the rules that are to be kept in mind while using it are not always necessarily followed. 

Apart from comma and quotation marks, we have used one more punctuation mark somewhere while rewriting the sentences. 

A deep look shows us that in sentence 2, we could see that Adam hesitantly asks for something from the other person. But, just before the favor is asked, we could see three periods occurring consecutively (…) before it.  The three periods that occur in a row is called ellipsis.  

parallel

Now, let us take a detailed look at these punctuation marks and learn about their usage. 

Comma: 

Rule 1: 

Commas should be used between words that constitute a list of more than two elements, like; 

  • Alexa likes chocolates, milk shakes, and waffles. 
  • This book has some amazing poems, short stories, and essays. 
  • You need to get me some butter, cheese, capsicum, and tomatoes to make this dish. 

You may or may not use the comma before the and in the list of more than two elements, as it is optional. 

Rule 2: 

Commas should be used between the phrases that constitute a series of more than two elements, like; 

  • I went surfing in Florida, hiking in North Dakota, and cycling in Vegas last summer. 
  • I couldn’t find the wallet even after searching for it under the bed, on the table, and inside the cupboard. 

Rule 3: 

Read the sentence: 

parallel
  • Jackson Maine, the protagonist of A Star is Born, dies at the end of the movie. 

This sentence has another phrase the protagonist of A Star is Born, to refer to the noun, Jackson Maine. Phrases like these are called apposition/appositive and commas should be used to mark off a noun or phrase in sentences consisting of appositives, like; 

  • George Washington, the first President of America, passed away in 1799. 
  • Mr. Anderson, our science teacher, retires next week. 
  • Russia, the largest country in the world, spreads across both Asia and Europe. 

Rule 4: 

Commas should be used before question tags to turn a statement into a question, like; 

  • It is snowing, isn’t it? 
  • You didn’t attend the meeting, did you?  
  • They are playing baseball, aren’t they? 

Rule 5: 

Commas should be used while writing the date in month-date-year format, like; 

  • I was born on September 16, 1994. 
  • August 26, 2015, was the day my first novel was published. 

While referring to a day of the week along with its date, commas should be used, like; 

  • The conference will be held on Tuesday, June 20, at 10 AM. 
  • The movie will be releasing on Friday, December 17th

Rule 6: 

While addressing a person, mark off the names with commas, like; 

  • Mom, did you see my new pair of shoes? 
  • How are you doing, Rachel? 
  • Chris, you have a call. 

Rule 7: 

If a participle phrase is used in a sentence as an introductory phrase, commas should be used, like; 

  • Appalled by his sudden outburst, everyone remained silent. 
  • Having said that, I don’t think we should be endorsing this product anymore. 
  • Grabbing everyone’s attention, Vince delivered a moving speech. 

Rule 8: 

Independent clauses that are joined together with but or and do not usually have a comma before the conjunction unless the subjects of the two clauses are different, like; 

  • It was raining heavily, but we decide to got to the church anyway. 
  • He was nagging with me for no reason, and I couldn’t even respond. 

Rule 9: 

Commas are generally used if the subordinate clause precedes the independent clause, like; 

  • If you want any tips, just ring me up. 
  • Despite knowing the truth, Martha chose to remain silent. 

Rule 10: 

Commas should be used between adjectives, whether they are used before or after a noun (i.e. attributively) or after a linking verb (i.e. predicatively), like; 

  • Joseph is a loud, sweet, and caring person. 
  • It is very hot, humid, and windy outside. 

Rule 11: 

When a sentence is modified by an adverbial, such as however, consequently, or unfortunately, it should be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma, like: 

  • However, you still have one more chance to set it right. 
  • Therefore, I don’t hangout much with her. 

Rule 12: 

Commas are followed by direct speech within quotations in some sentences (if there is no question or exclamation mark after the quotation) or to indicate that it comes next, like: 

  • Peter said, “I don’t know who you are.” 
  • “You’re lying”, Robert said. 

Quotation marks: 

Rule 1: 

Quotation marks are used when we wish to the write the words said by someone else verbatim, like: 

  • Sasha said, “I love winters.” 
  • My mom asked me, “Where are you going?” 

Note that quotation marks are used only with direct quotes. 

Rule 2: 

The text inside quotation marks is sometimes capitalized, and sometimes it isn’t. The quoted material’s capitalization is determined by the material itself—if you’re quoting a complete sentence, you should begin the quote with a capital letter, even if the quote is in the middle of a sentence, like: 

  • She cursed the whole situation and said, “We shouldn’t have set out for this journey.” 
  • James said, “We are running out of time.” 

However, if you are quoting a phrase or a portion of a sentence, the quote shouldn’t begin with a capital letter, like: 

  • Jack called Jim “lazy, irresponsible, and useless,” and went away. 
  • She described the book as “exciting and breath-taking” and asked me to read it. 

If a quote is split into half to interject a parenthetical, the second part of the quote should not be capitalized, like: 

  • “The disadvantage of having it,” Michael explained, “is that it doesn’t have any decent resale value.” 

Rule 3: 

Some writers use quotation marks around words from which they want to distance themselves. When quotation marks are used in this manner, they are commonly referred to as scare quotes or shudder quotes. It implies that you’re using a term in an unusual way or that you don’t necessarily agree with it, like: 

  • He doesn’t think that Luke is a “professional” writer to work on this topic. 
  • It seems like your publication doesn’t approve of any “regional” content. 

Ellipsis:  

The term ellipsis is derived from the Greek word for “omission,” and it is used to indicate that something has been omitted.  

Rule 1: 

When quoting someone, use an ellipsis to indicate that you’ve omitted some of their words, like: 

  • Hamlet asked whether it was “nobler . . . to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles.” 

The words “in the mind” have been removed from the quote in the above sentence. You may need to leave out a portion of a quote if it is irrelevant or makes the quote difficult to comprehend in the context of the sentence. The ellipsis indicates that you have omitted something. 

More examples: 

  • Julie said, “After the exam, we went for a movie… and then came back.” 
  • “We started the work in the morning… and went back home by evening.” 

Rule 2: 

An ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in speech or the end of a sentence. This technique, however, is inappropriate for formal or academic writing. In fiction and informal writing, you should only use the ellipsis in this manner.  

Examples: 

  • “I think we should, umm… never mind, let’s go ahead with the plan.” 
  • Well, we can just… 

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