Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Punctuation Rules

By the time this blog posts, I'll be at the RWA National Conference!!! So, HELLO from Atlanta!!!

Let's review basic Punctuation Rules. Here's a simple list:

1) Period - Use at the end of sentences and fragments. Examples: Callum cradled his fallen comrade's head in his lap. "My friend. My brother."

2) Question Mark - Use at the end of interrogative sentences and fragments (questions). Example: How could he exact revenge upon his enemies?

3) Exclamation Point (or Mark) - Use at the end of exclamatory sentences and fragments (exclamations). Example: "You will suffer for this!" Callum yelled into the darkening sky.

4) Em-dash - Use at the end of interrupted internal and spoken dialogue. Example: Jane kicked at her captor. "Unhand me, you filthy--" "Beware yer words, fine English lass."

5) Ellipses - Use to show hesitation or trailing off of internal and spoken dialogue. Does he mean to...kill me?

6) Semi-colon - Use to connect two independent clauses that are closing related. Example: Being kidnapped hadn't been in her plans; being forced to marry a stranger was no better.

7) Quotation Marks - Use to enclose spoken dialogue, titles of poems, songs, etc., and emphasized words. Example: "The Raven" is one of her favorite poems.

8) Colon - Use to indicate a list. Example: Here are some types of punctuation: period, question mark, exclamation point, and em-dash.

Yes, I've left off hyphens and commas, but both really deserve their own posts because of their number of uses. In the meantime, crack open your copy of Chicago Manual of Style! You'll find lots of help with punctuation!

Next week, we'll tackle those hyphens!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. Always wondered what the difference was between interrupted speech and trailing off speech. Good examples!

  2. Reading this over again, I have two questions:
    1.) Is an em-dash a double dash (--)?
    2.) Can you leave a space after a set of ellipses if the next word is capitalized (Um... I... I don't know...) or does it always immediatly follow the last period?

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kinbaku!

      Yes, an em-dash is a double hyphen with no spaces before, between, or after. You can go into your Word settings for auto-format to have the em-dash change to a single line as you type (on a Mac; not sure if it's the same on a PC).

      With ellipses, leave a space after the final period only if you're beginning a new sentence. "I thought you... Well, I guess you didn't." In the case of your example, I'd probably use an em-dash between the two "I"s to show stuttering and leave out the space between the "Um" and "I" ellipses. However, you could leave the ellipses and take out the spaces as well.

      Hope that helps!

    2. Thank you! It really does help-but now I have to do a lot of revisions!