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Academic Writing: Punctuation

Lesson 6
University of Montenegro
English Language and Literature Department

Punctuation marks
. = full stop, period (US English)
, = comma
: = colon
; = semi-colon
?= question mark
!= exclamation mark
-= hyphen (when used to separate words)
--= dash
= quotation marks, double quotes
= single quotes
[]= square brackets
{}= chain brackets

1. Comma

Separating main clauses:

Main clauses separated by and, or and but are not normally
separated by commas, although commas may be used between
clauses which dont have the same subject.

-They were friendly and invited us back to their flat. (same subject)
-It was a restaurant a good distance from the city centre, but we decided it
was worth making such a long journey. (different subjects)


Separating main and subordinate clauses

Commas are usually used if the subordinate clause comes before
the main one.

If you get stuck, come back and see me.

Come back and see me if you get stuck.


With adjectives
Commas are used between adjectives in attributive and predicative
positions. A comma is not usually used before an adjective followe
by and.

The town was cold, dark and inhospitable.

This is the lightweight, portable and wireless version.

1. Comma

With lists
Commas are used to separate items in a list, except for a final item
preceded by and. In American English, however, the norm is to have
a comma before and in a list:

They bought a rail pass and visited Rome, Milan,Venice and Verona.

Theyve got apples, bananas, and peaches. (AmE)

1. Comma

With adjuncts
Here the comma often coincides with a pause in speech.

It was, however, the best decision taken at that point in the company.

Unfortunately, the proposal was turned down without any


Have you had any contact with Karin, by the way?

1. Comma

In reported speech
Commas are used to indicate that direct speech is following or has
just occurred. When the direct speech is first, the comma comes
before the closing of the quotation marks:

He said, Now its time for big changes.

Im too old for that kind of thing, she said with a broad grin.

2. Colon :

Used to introduce lists, to indicate a

subtitle or to indicate a subdivision of a

There are three main arguments for the withdrawal of the troops:
military, economic and, above all, ethical.

The History of Britain: A Personal View

3. Semi-colon ;

Semi-colons are sometimes used instead of full stops to separate

two main clauses. In such cases the clauses remain grammatically
separate but are linked in meaning. Semi-colons are not frequently
used in contemporary English. Full stops and commas are much
more common:

Some cats sleep during the night; most cats are active during the dark.

Bangkok is the capital city; Chiang Mai is the main tourist destination.

4. Reported Speech

The reporting clause can appear in three different positions. Note

the position of commas and full stops:

The course tutor said to us, Dont waste your time in your first term

Dont waste your time in your first term here,the course tutor said to

Dont waste your time, the course tutor said to us, in your first term

5. Practice