Punctuation

Listing Punctuation

A colon (:) is used to introduce a list if there is a complete sentence before the list.

When you finish your essay, you should check it for the four features of good writing: organization, development, accuracy, and originality.

Commas (,) and semicolons (;) are used for separating items in a list.

  1. Commas are used to separate items in a list without If several adjectives are listed to describe a noun, a comma separates them.

I have lived in California, Utah, and Texas.

The beautiful, new building was finished this summer.

  1. Semicolons are used to separate items in a list when the items contain commas. When we write cities and states in English, a comma always separates them.

I have lived in San Diego, California; Provo, Utah; and Houston, Texas.

*If we used commas instead of semicolons in a list that already has commas, it would be very confusing.

I have lived in San Diego, California, Provo, Utah, and Houston, Texas. (Incorrect)

EXERCISE: Revising for listing punctuation

Sentence Linking Punctuation

Comma + Coordinating Conjunction

You can link two independent clauses (complete sentences) together with a comma if you also use a coordinating conjunction. These conjunctions are sometimes referred to as FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

There are many ways students use commas, but not all of those ways are correct.

Notice that there are two complete sentences:

There are many ways students use commas.

Not all of those ways are correct.

**Remember that you only need a comma if you are joining two COMPLETE sentences together.

I need to print my essay tonight, and ask my study buddy to give me some feedback. (Incorrect)

I need to print my essay tonight and ask my study buddy to give me some feedback. (Correct)

Semicolon

Another way to link two complete sentences is by using a semicolon.

There are many ways students use commas; not all of those ways are correct.

Notice that there are two complete sentences again:

There are many ways students use commas.

Not all of those ways are correct.

A comma combined with a coordinating conjunction does the same thing in this situation, but a semicolon shows a little stronger of a connection between the sentences. Writing this type of sentence can also add variety to your writing. If you use a semicolon, NO conjunction is necessary

EXERCISE: Revise linking punctuation

Variety and Avoiding Linking Errors

Variety in sentence length is important for your writing. Some sentences should be short, while some can be linked to other sentences to create variety.

When you link independent clauses, you need to be careful to avoid run-on sentences.

A run-on sentence either has no punctuation between independent clauses, or splices two independent clauses together by only using a comma. (This type of run-on sentence is called a "comma splice sentence".)

He will help her prepare for the TOEFL and she will practice every day. (Incorrect)
He will help her prepare for the TOEFL, she will practice every day. (Incorrect)
He will help her prepare for the TOEFL, and she will practice every day. (Correct)
He will help her prepare for the TOEFL; she will practice every day. (Correct)
He will help her prepare for the TOEFL. She will practice every day. (Correct)

Remember that even if you are correctly linking independent clauses together, do not link too many together because it will make your writing harder to read.

EXERCISE: Revise run-on sentences