Capitalization and punctuation

8/22/2015 10:06:45 AM
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Since every sentence begins with a capital, the how-to’s of capitalization seem like a logical place to begin learning about language mechanics.

Capitalization Checklist
  • The first word of every sentence.
                   ➞ Yes, we do carry the matching bed skirt.
  • The first word of a quoted sentence (not just a quoted phrase) 
                   ➞ And with great flourish, he sang, “O beautiful for gracious skies, for amber waves of grain!”
  • The specific name of a person (and his or her title), a place, or a thing (otherwise known as proper nouns). Proper nouns include specific locations and geographic regions; political, social, and athletic organizations and agencies; historical events; documents and periodicals; nationalities and their language; religions, their members and their deities; brand or trade names; and holidays.
  • The abbreviation for proper nouns. Government agencies are probably the most frequently abbreviated. Remember to capitalize each letter.
                 ➞ The CIA makes me feel very secure.
  • Adjectives (descriptive words) derived from proper nouns.
Ex: America (proper noun)➞the American (adjective) flag
  • The pronoun I.
  • The most important words in a title
                 ➞ Last March, I endured a twenty-hour public reading of A Tale of Two Cities.
Periods
✓At the end of a declarative sentence (sentence that makes a statement)
➞Today, I took a walk to nowhere.

✓At the end of a command or request
➞Here’s a cloth.

✓At the end of an indirect question
➞Jane asked if I knew where she had left her keys.

✓Before a decimal number
➞Statisticians claim that the average family raises 2.5 children.

✓Between dollars and cents
➞I remember when $1.50 could buy the coolest stuff.

✓After an initial in a person’s name
➞You are Sir James W. Dewault, are you not?

✓After an abbreviation
➞On Jan. 12, I leave for Africa.

Question Marks
✓At the end of a question
➞Why do you look so sad?

✓Inside a quotation mark when the quote is a question
➞She asked, “Why do you look so sad?”

Exclamation Points
✓At the end of a word, phrase, or sentence filled with emotion
➞Hurry up! I cannot be late for the meeting!

✓Inside a quotation mark when the quote is an exclamation
➞The woman yelled, “Hurry up! I cannot be late for the meeting!”

Quotation Marks
✓ When directly quoting dialogue, not when para- phrasing
➞Hamlet says, “To be, or not to be. That is the question.”

✓For titles of chapters, articles, short stories, poems, songs, or periodicals
➞My favorite poem is “The Road Not Taken.”

Semicolons
✓Between two independent clauses (an independent clause is a complete thought. It has a subject and a predicate.)
➞Edward joined the basketball team; remarkably, the 5´4˝ young man excelled at the sport.

✓Between elements in a series that uses commas
➞The possible dates for the potluck dinner are Thurs-day, June 5; Saturday, June 7; or Monday, June 9.

Colons
✓Between two complete ideas when the second idea explains the first.
➞Keri pushed her dinner away: She had eaten on the car ride home.

✓Before a list
➞Grandma brought Chloe’s favorite three sweets: chocolate kisses, Tootsie Rolls, and a Snickers bar.

✓Between titles and subtitles
➞Finding Your Dream Home: A Buyer’s Guide.

✓Between volumes and page numbers
➞Marvel Comics 21:24

✓Between chapters and verse
➞Job 4:12

✓Between hours and minutes
➞It’s 2:00 a.m.—time to sleep.

Apostrophes
✓Where letters or numbers have been deleted—as in a contraction
➞I looked at my father and whispered, “It’s (It is) okay to cry every so often.”

✓At the end of a name where there is ownership (remember to also add an s after the apostrophe if the word or name does not end in an s already) ➞Mary Jane’s horse sprained his ankle during practice.
Commas

✓Between items in dates and addresses
➞Michael arrived at Ellis Island, New York, on February 14, 1924.

✓Between words in a list
➞The university hired a woman to direct the Bursar’s, Financial Aid, and Registrar’s offices.

✓Between equally important adjectives (be careful not to separate adjectives that describe each other)
➞The reporter spoke with several intense, talented high school athletes.

✓After a tag that precedes a direct quote
➞David whined, “I am famished.”

✓In a quote that precedes a tag and is not a question or an exclamation
➞“I am famished,” whined David.

✓Around nonessential clauses, parenthetical phrases, and appositives (A nonessential or nonrestrictive clause is a word or group of words that are not necessary for the sentence’s completion; a parenthetical phrase interrupts the flow of a sentence; and an appositive is a word or group of words that rename the noun preceding them)
➞Matt’s mother, Janie (appositive), who has trouble with directions (non-essential clause), had to ask for help.

✓After introductory words, phrases, and clauses
➞Hoping for the best, we checked our luggage.

✓Before conjunctions (Conjunctions are words that link two independent clauses together)
➞Drew wanted to experience ballroom dancing before his wedding, so he signed up for lessons at a local hall.


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