Other Punctuation Marks: Colons, Parentheses, Brackets, Ellipses, Dashes, Slashes
(printable version here)


After an independent clause to introduce a list.

ex.: Novelists of the Naturalistic school include the following: Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, and Frank Norris.

With some quotations.

ex.: The title of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath comes from a line in the first verse of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic": "He is trampling down the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored."

With appositives (a noun or noun phrase that renames a nearby noun).

ex.: I will be traveling to three major cities in Asia: Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Bangkok.

Note: Appositives are usually set off by commas.

ex.: The designer of Cher's dress, Bob Mackie, also designed for the stars of "Dynasty."

Between independent clauses when the second restates or explains the first.

ex.: We are very excited to work in the Writing Center: it is a fun and interesting job.


For supplemental material or digressions.

ex.: Brad Pitt is an extremely talented, charismatic (not to mention attractive), film actor.

Note: Avoid using parentheses this way in your papers. Whenever possible, work supplemental material and digressions into your sentences.


To enclose words or phrases of your own that you are inserting in a direct quotation.

ex.: The senator asserted, "He [Judge Thomas] is a worthy candidate for the Supreme Court, the charges against him notwithstanding."


To show that you have deleted words from a direct quotation. The rules can be a bit confusing, but we have provided some details on our page about the use of direct quotations.


To assist readers' comprehension by connecting multiple-word modifiers (like that one). The exception is for "ly" modifiers.

ex.: The ninety-year-old man drove the slowly moving Buick LeSabre in the wrong direction down the four-lane highway, straight into the rapidly approaching traffic.


To set off parenthetical material that deserves emphasis.

ex.: Coleridge was able--through the generosity of a wealthy patron--to concentrate on his poetry full time.

Note: A dash can also be used to set off an appositive that contains commas:

ex.: The major characters in Light in August--Lena Grove, Joe Christmas, and Gail Hightower--are all connected by a relationship with Byron Bunch.

Note: When typing, use two hyphens with no space before, between or after to indicate a dash.


To separate lines of poetry that you quote in your text.

ex.: The beginning of the "Eolian Harp" is filled with traditional Romantic pastoral imagery, "Our cot o'ergrown / With white-flowered Jasmin, and broad-leav'd Myrtle,".

Note: There should be a space before and after the slash.

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