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Punctuation NO-NOs

COMMON MISUSES OF PUNCTUATION
 
DEFENSE DE POINT:

(Punctuating used to be called pointing. The word survives in "exclamation point.")


INCORRECT USES OF THE COMMA

 MISTAKE #1: 

I didn't like Mary's dinner, but, I ate it.

Don't put commas after "but" "or" "and"!

Mistake #2:   

 Ivan loved Mary's dinner, I hated it.

Don't join two complete (a subject and verb on both sides of the punctuation mark)sentences  together with only a comma.  Use ,and or a ; or make two separate sentences: Ivan loved Mary's dinner.  I hated it.

Mistake # 3:

 Mary ate dinner, and also ate dessert.

    Don't put commas with words like "and" or "but" if the second sentence lacks a subject.

Mistake # 4:

Mary eats foods such as, chicken, salad, and toast.

Don't put commas after the word "like" or phrases like "such as."

Mistake # 5:

Ivan used to say, that he learned to cook before he learned to walk.

Don't use commas to indicate indirect quotations, often beginning with "that" or "which."

Mistake # 6:

"Do you like your dinner?," Ivan asked.

 Don't use commas after quotation marks or exclamation points in direct quotations.  In any event, never use more than two punctuation marks in one spot!

INCORRECT USES OF THE SEMICOLON

Mistake # 1:

Mary's dinner consisted of the following; salad, soup, chicken, and toast.

Don't use semicolons before a list of three or more items; the appropriate mark is a colon.

Mistake # 2:

Mary ate dinner; but she didn't eat dessert.

Don't use semicolons with words like "and" and "but" that join two complete sentences together; the appropriate mark is a comma.

INCORRECT USES OF THE COLON

Mistake # 1:

Ivan's kitchen utensil set is made up of: thirty knives, four large spoons, eight spatulas, and three pairs of tongs.

Don't use colons after words like "of," which is a preposition that begins a prepositional phrase with multiple objects.  The colon would separate the preposition from its objects.

Mistake # 2:

Mary's ideal dinner contains: chicken, salad, soup, and toast.

Don't use colons after verbs that come before a list of items.  If you use a phrase like "the following" then the colon is appropriate, as in "contains the following:"

INCORRECT USE OF QUOTATION MARKS

  Mistake #1

Ivan used to say that "he learned to cook before he learned to walk."

Don't use quotation marks to indicate indirect quotations, in this case a description of what Ivan said rather than his actual words.  Quotation marks are reserved for actual words said or written.

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