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9.9: Punctuation (Part 2)

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    The colon (:) is another punctuation mark used to indicate a full stop. Use a colon to introduce lists, quotes, examples, and explanations. You can also use a colon after the greeting in business letters and memos.

    Example \(\PageIndex{11}\):

    Dear Hiring Manager:

    To: Human Resources

    From: Deanna Dean

    Colons to Introduce a List

    Use a colon to introduce a list of items. Introduce the list with an independent clause.

    Example \(\PageIndex{12}\):

    The team will tour three states: New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

    I have to take four classes this semester: Composition, Statistics, Ethics, and Italian.

    Colons to Introduce a Quote

    You can use a colon to introduce a quote if the introduction to the quote is a complete, independent clause:

    Correct: Mark Twain had some great advice about honesty: “When in doubt, tell the truth.”

    Incorrect: Mark Twain said: “When in doubt, tell the truth.”

    Correct: Mark Twain said, “When in doubt, tell the truth.”

    If a quote is longer than four typed lines, skip a line after the colon and indent the left margin of the quote five spaces. Because quotations longer than four typed lines use line spacing and indentation to indicate a quote, quotation marks are not necessary.

    Example \(\PageIndex{13}\):

    My father always loved Mark Twain’s words:

    There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.


    Long quotations, which are four typed lines or more, are called block quotations. Block quotations frequently appear in longer essays and research papers.

    Colons to Introduce Examples or Explanations

    Use a colon to introduce an example or to further explain an idea presented in the first part of a sentence. The first part of the sentence must always be an independent clause; that is, it must stand alone as a complete thought with a subject and verb. Do not use a colon after phrases like such as or for example.

    Incorrect: Our company offers many publishing services, such as: writing, editing, and reviewing.

    Incorrect: Our company does: writing, editing, and reviewing.

    Correct: Our company offers many publishing services: writing, editing, and reviewing.


    Capitalize the first letter following a colon for a proper noun, the beginning of a quote, or the first letter of another independent clause. Do NOT capitalize if the information following the colon is not a complete sentence.

    Proper noun: We visited three countries: Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.

    Beginning of a quote: My mother loved this line from Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.”

    Two independent clauses: There are drawbacks to modern technology: My brother’s cell phone died and he lost a lot of phone numbers.

    Incorrect: The recipe is simple: Tomato, basil, and avocado.

    Exercise 35

    Correct the following sentences by adding semicolons or colons where needed. If the sentence does not need a semicolon or colon, write OK.

    1. Don’t give up you never know what tomorrow brings.
    2. Our records show that the patient was admitted on March 9, 2010 January 13, 2010 and November 16, 2009.
    3. Allow me to introduce myself I am the greatest ice-carver in the world.
    4. Where I come from there are three ways to get to the grocery store by car, by bus, and by foot.
    5. Listen closely you will want to remember this speech.
    6. I have lived in Sedona, Arizona Baltimore, Maryland and Knoxville, Tennessee.
    7. The boss’s message was clear lateness would not be tolerated.
    8. Next semester, we will read some well-known authors, such as Vonnegut, Miller, and Orwell.
    9. My little sister said what we were all thinking “We should have stayed home.”
    10. Trust me I have done this before.
    key takeaways
    • Use a colon to introduce a list, quote, or example.
    • Use a colon after a greeting in business letters and memos.

    Quotation Marks

    Quotation marks (“ ”) set off a group of words from the rest of the text. Use quotation marks to indicate direct quotations of another person’s words or to indicate a title of a short published work. Quotation marks always appear in pairs.

    Direct Quotations

    A direct quotation is an exact account of what someone said or wrote. To include a direct quotation in your writing, enclose the words in quotation marks. An indirect quotation is a restatement of what someone said or wrote. An indirect quotation, which is also called reported speech, does not use the person’s exact words. You do not need to use quotation marks for indirect quotations.

    Direct quotation: Carly said, “I’m not ever going back there again.”

    Indirect quotation: Carly said that she would never go back there.

    Punctuating Direct Quotations

    Quotation marks show readers another person’s exact words. Often, you will want to identify who is speaking. You can do this at the beginning, middle, or end of the quote. Notice the use of commas and capitalized words.

    Beginning: Madison said, “Let’s stop at the farmers market to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner.”

    Middle: “Let’s stop at the farmers market,” Madison said, “to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner.

    End: “Let’s stop at the farmers market to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner,” Madison said.

    Speaker not identified: “Let’s stop at the farmers market to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner.”

    Always capitalize the first letter of a quote when it is the beginning of the sentence. When using identifying words in the middle of the quote, the beginning of the second part of the quote does not need to be capitalized.

    Use commas between identifying words and quotes. Quotation marks must be placed after commas and periods. Place quotation marks after question marks and exclamation points only if the question or exclamation is part of the quoted text.

    Question is part of quoted text: The new employee asked, “When is lunch?”

    Question is not part of quoted text: Did you hear her say you were “the next Picasso”?

    Exclamation is part of quoted text: My supervisor beamed, “Thanks for all of your hard work!”

    Exclamation is not part of quoted text: He said I “single-handedly saved the company thousands of dollars”!

    Quotations within Quotations

    Use single quotation marks (‘ ’) to show a quotation within in a quotation.

    Example \(\PageIndex{14}\):

    Theresa said, “I wanted to take my dog to the festival, but the man at the gate said, ‘No dogs allowed.’”

    “When you say, ‘I can’t help it,’ what exactly does that mean?”

    “The instructions say, ‘Tighten the screws one at a time.’”


    Use quotation marks around titles of short works of writing, such as essays, songs, poems, short stories, and chapters in books. Usually, titles of longer works, such as books, magazines, albums, newspapers, and novels, are italicized or underlined, but never both at the same time.

    Example \(\PageIndex{15}\):

    “Annabelle Lee” is one of my favorite romantic poems.

    The New York Times has been in publication since 1851.

    Exercise 36

    Correct these sentences by adding quotation marks where necessary. If the sentence does not need any quotation marks, write OK.

    1. Yasmin said, I don’t feel like cooking. Let’s go out to eat.
    2. Where should we go? said Russell.
    3. Yasmin said it didn’t matter to her.
    4. I know, said Russell, let’s go to the Two Roads Juice Bar.
    5. Perfect! said Yasmin.
    6. Did you know that the name of the Juice Bar is a reference to a poem? asked Russell.
    7. I didn’t! exclaimed Yasmin. Which poem?
    8. The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost Russell explained.
    9. Oh! said Yasmin, Is that the one that starts with the line, Two roads diverged in a yellow wood?
    10. That’s the one said Russell.
    key takeaways
    • Use quotation marks to enclose direct quotes and titles of short works.
    • Use single quotation marks to enclose a quote within a quote.
    • Do not use any quotation marks for indirect quotations.


    An apostrophe (’) is a punctuation mark that is used with a noun to show possession or to indicate where a letter has been left out to form a contraction.


    An apostrophe and the letter s indicate who or what owns something. To show possession with a singular noun, add ’s.

    Example \(\PageIndex{16}\):

    Jen’s dance routine mesmerized everyone in the room.

    The dog’s leash is hanging on the hook beside the door.

    Jess’s sister is also coming to the party.

    Notice that singular nouns that end in s still take the apostrophe s (’s) ending to show possession.

    To show possession with a plural noun that ends in s, just add an apostrophe (’). If the plural noun does not end in s, add an apostrophe and an s (’s).

    Plural noun that ends in s: The drummers’ sticks all moved in the same rhythm, like a machine.

    Plural noun that does not end in s: The people’s votes clearly showed that no one supported the management decision.


    A contraction is a word that is formed by combining two words. In a contraction, an apostrophe shows where one or more letters have been left out. Contractions are commonly used in informal writing but not in formal writing.

    Example \(\PageIndex{17}\):

    I do not like ice cream.

    I don’t like ice cream.

    Notice how the words do and not have been combined to form the contraction don’t. The apostrophe shows where the o in not has been left out.

    Example \(\PageIndex{18}\):

    We will see you later.

    We’ll see you later.

    Be careful not to confuse it’s with its. It’s is a contraction of the words it and is. Its is a possessive pronoun.

    Example \(\PageIndex{19}\):

    It’s cold and rainy outside. (It is cold and rainy outside.)

    The cat was chasing its tail. (Shows that the tail belongs to the cat.)

    When in doubt, substitute the words it is in a sentence. If sentence still makes sense, use the contraction it’s.

    Exercise 37

    Correct the following sentences by adding apostrophes. If the sentence is correct as it is, write OK.

    1. “What a beautiful child! She has her mothers eyes.”
    2. My brothers wife is one of my best friends.
    3. I couldnt believe it when I found out that I got the job!
    4. My supervisors informed me that I wouldnt be able to take the days off.
    5. Each of the students responses were unique.
    6. Wont you please join me for dinner tonight?
    key takeaways
    • Use apostrophes to show possession. Add ’s to singular nouns and plural nouns that do not end in s.
    • Add ’ to plural nouns that end in s.
    • Use apostrophes in contractions to show where a letter or letters have been left out.


    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. To create a dash in Microsoft Word, type two hyphens together. Do not put a space between dashes and text.

    Example \(\PageIndex{20}\):

    Arrive to the interview early—but not too early.

    Any of the suits—except for the purple one—should be fine to wear.

    Exercise 38

    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 over 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.
    key takeaways
    • Dashes indicate a pause in text.
    • Dashes set off information in a sentence to show emphasis.


    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 that work together to form a single description.

    Example \(\PageIndex{21}\):

    The fifty-five-year-old athlete was just as qualified for the marathon as his younger opponents.

    My doctor recommended against taking the medication, since it can be habit-forming.

    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.

    Example \(\PageIndex{22}\):

    My supervisor was concerned that the team meet-
    ing would conflict with the client meeting.

    key takeaways
    • Hyphens join words that work as one adjective.
    • Hyphens break words across two lines of text.

    This page titled 9.9: Punctuation (Part 2) is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kathryn Crowther, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, and Kirk Swenson (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.