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Punctuation Marks – Commas, Semicolons and Colons

Sep 6, 2022
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Punctuation Marks – Commas, Semicolons and Colons 

Colon: 

The punctuation mark that separates the two parts in each of the given sentences above is called a colon

Read the following sentence: 

  • I read all types of books: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc. 

This sentence can be rephrased without using the colon and it will read like, “I read all types of books like fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc.”  Here, the colon is not used, because it may interrupt the flow of the sentence, which it gained with the addition of the word like

Here’s the deal; consider a colon to be a flashing arrow pointing to the information that follows it. When a colon appears in a sentence, it usually implies, as follows, which is/are, or thus, like; 

  • This movie is a blend of different genres: fantasy, thriller, crime, etc. 
  • Most of my cousins live in other countries: England, Canada, and Germany. 
  • My father cooks good food: pasta, soups, cakes. 

The colons used in these sentences indicate that the reader is about to know about the various things that are collectively mentioned in the first part of each of the sentences. 

parallel

Just like a semicolon, a colon is also used to separate two independent clauses within a sentence. But here:  

  1. The second clause should not be in any vague connection with the first one; it must be direct and closely connected to the first one in some sense.  
  1. Also, the main emphasis should be on the second clause, not on the first one. 

Examples: 

  • The decision is final: we are leaving this city. 
  • His academic performance is mediocre: there is still room for improvement. 
  • You only have one job to do this evening: introduce your friends to the chief guest. 

A colon is also used in sentences to introduce a quotation, like: 

  • My mother always told me: “Respect those you respect you.” 
  • Bacon said: “Reading makes a full man, writing an exact man, speaking a ready man.” 

Semicolon: 

To put it in a simple way, a semicolon is a period stacked on top of a comma (;). But that is only its appearance. The semicolon is most commonly used to join two independent clauses without the use of a conjunction such as and. Semicolons cannot be used in place of commas or periods. Instead, they’re somewhere in the middle: let’s say more powerful than a comma but not as divisive as a period. 

It is mandatory for the words preceding the semicolon to form a complete sentence. Likewise, the words following the semicolon should also form a complete sentence, so that the two sentences share a close, logical connection, like: 

parallel
  • We are playing football; Matt is playing for us. 
  • He is an excellent, talented musician; he will soon compose music for movies. 
  • Money cannot buy you happiness; it can help you lead a luxurious life. 

A semicolon is also used to separate a series of loosely related clauses, like: 

  • “Her court was pure; her life serene;” 
  • “God gave her peace; her life reposed.” 

Moreover, nevertheless, however, otherwise, therefore, then, finally, likewise, and consequently are called conjunctive adverbs. When the second sentence begins with either a conjunctive adverb or a conjunction, a semicolon should be used instead of a period, like: 

  • I am going out to take a walk; also, I need to get some bread. 

Frank prepared day in, day out for the match; nevertheless, he couldn’t score any goals. 

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: 

  • 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 go 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. 

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