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11.2: Punctuation and Style

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    Parentheses, Dashes, and Hyphens

    The following video explains how to work with parentheses and dashes.

    Video \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Parentheses and Dashes. Authored by: Warner JordanEducation. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.


    Parentheses ( ) are punctuation marks that are always used in pairs and contain material that is secondary to the meaning of a sentence. Parentheses must never contain the subject or verb of a sentence. A sentence should make sense if you delete the parentheses and any text within them. Words in parentheses can also indicate thoughts that writers are thinking to themselves when writing dialog. They can also be used to distinguish asides that are less important to the meaning of a sentence than descriptive words surrounded by commas might be.

    Attack of the Killer Potatoes has to be the worst movie I have seen (so far).

    Your spinach and garlic salad is one of the most delicious (and nutritious) foods I have ever tasted!

    Exercise 1

    On your own sheet of paper, clarify the following sentence by adding parentheses. If the sentence is clear as it is, write OK.

    1. Are you going to the seminar this weekend I am?

    2. I recommend that you try the sushi bar unless you don't like sushi.

    3. I was able to solve the puzzle after taking a few moments to think about it.

    4. Please complete the questionnaire at the end of this letter.

    5. Has anyone besides me read the assignment?

    6. Please be sure to circle not underline the correct answers.


    A dash (—) is a punctuation mark used to set off information in a sentence for emphasis. You can enclose text between two dashes, or use just one dash if the part of the sentence that is set off also ends the sentence. To create a dash in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, type two hyphens together. Do not put a space between dashes and text.

    Arrive to the interview earlybut not too early.

    Any of the suitsexcept for the purple oneshould be fine to wear.

    Exercise 2

    On your own sheet of paper, clarify the following sentences by adding dashes. If the sentence is clear as it is, write OK.

    1. Which hairstyle do you prefer short or long?

    2. I don't know I hadn't even thought about that.

    3. Guess what I got the job!

    4. I will be happy to work of the weekend if I can have Monday off.

    5. You have all the qualities that we are looking for in a candidate intelligence, dedication, and a strong work ethic.


    A hyphen (-) looks similar to a dash but is shorter and used in different ways.

    Hyphens between Two Adjectives That Work as One

    Use a hyphen to combine words (usually adjectives) that work together to form a single description.

    The fiftyfiveyearold athlete was just as qualified for the marathon as her younger opponents.

    My doctor recommended against taking the medication, since it can be habitforming.

    My study group focused on preparing for the midyear review.

    Hyphens When a Word Breaks at the End of a Line

    Use a hyphen to divide a word across two lines of text. You may notice that most word-processing programs will do this for you. If you have to manually insert a hyphen, place the hyphen between two syllables. If you are unsure of where to place the hyphen, consult a dictionary or move the entire word to the next line.

    My supervisor was concerned that the team meet

    ing would conflict with the client meeting.

    Figure: Unsplash

    Note of Caution: Phrases set apart with parentheses or dashes interrupt the flow of the sentence. Use them sparingly, and be careful not to interrupt yourself to much with such asides. It can make your writing harder to read. However, they can also add style by allowing your voice to shine through by creating pacing and emphasis.

    Exercise 3

    Using what you learned in this chapter, correct the punctuation errors and fix the style in the following sentences.

    a. On the day of the wedding, the bride looked more beautiful than ever and I’ve known her for fifteen years.

    b. All the details were perfect in my opinion.

    c. Everyone danced at the wedding except my mother.

    d. It was to be expected she just had hip surgery.

    e. The groom danced with his new mother in law.

    f. It was a spectacular, fun filled day for everyone.

    Contributors and Attributions

    This page titled 11.2: Punctuation and Style is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .

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