HR How-To: How to Punctuate With Purpose

by Frank Roche on September 24, 2010

in Blogging, Communication, Writing

Today marks an important day for American writers: It’s National Punctuation Day! And since we want to help your long-term writing skills, what better day to go over some common “punctuation pet peeves”? Watch us dissect this paragraph and use it as a writers guide to address some of those highly contended rules.

Today marks an important day for American writers: It’s National Punctuation Day!
Notice the colon. Also notice the capital letter following the colon. The rule is to always capitalize the first word after a colon when it introduces a thought that can stand alone as its own sentence. But this sentence brings us to another important point—use “it’s” when you mean “it is,” and use “its” when you’re using the word as its possessive. Got it?

And since we want to help your long-term writing skills,
Look at the phrase, “long-term writing skills.” In this case, we can use a hyphen since this phrase is a compound adjective that modifies the latter part of the phrase, “writing skills.” If you were to simply use a noun modified by a single adjective, no hyphen needed.

what better day to go over some common “punctuation pet peeves”?
Question marks and quotation marks—when it the question mark inside vs. outside? It’s easier than you may think. It stays outside in this example since “punctuation pet peeves” isn’t a question. However, if the quoted material is itself a question, that’s when you keep the question mark inside.

Watch us dissect this paragraph and use it as a writers guide
Think we forgot an apostrophe in this section? Think again. Adjectives that are descriptive, rather that possessive, don’t need an apostrophe. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether the words “by” or “for” are implied in the meaning of that phrase.

to address some of those highly contended rules.
This last piece is also about hyphens. You’re probably asking yourself: What hyphen? And that’s right, there isn’t one. As the story goes, you should never hyphenate compound adjectives beginning with words that end in “-ly.” That’s one highly contended rule you should remember for the long term.

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