Punctuation in writing can become confusing when it comes to colons, semicolons and dashes. This article covers the basic punctuation in writing by providing example and tips.
A semicolon is used to separate two different main clauses that are not joined together by a coordinating conjunction.
A colon is designed to separate a main clause from a series of words that are linked together.
Dashes are used to separate or highlight a word or phrase that is already part of a list.
All of the punctuation in writing tools works to separate different parts of sentences so that the sentences make sense to the reader.
Semicolons ( ; )
A semicolon is the way for a writer to establish a connection between two independent clauses or sentences. It can often be used to replace words such as but or and.
Semicolons are used when the writer wants to make a separation that is weaker than the period but stronger than a comma.
If you are writing a list that has a smaller list inside you can use a semicolon to separate the smaller lists.
Do not put a space between the semicolon and its preceding word. You should put only one space after the semicolon.
The word following a semicolon should be written in lowercase unless it is a proper noun.
Colons ( : )
Colons are about introducing a list of something. Normally there is a complete sentence before the colon and then the list is presented.
The words following the colon should only be capitalized if they are a proper noun. The exceptions to this are if a colon is followed by dialogue like in a script.
If the colon is followed by a quote then the beginning word is capitalized. An example would be to say “We are going to discuss punctuation in writing, specifically: dashes, commas and colons.”
It serves a similar purpose to the comma or the semicolon but does not do the exact same job.
Dashes ( — )
There are two types of dashes and they should not be confused with hyphens. Hyphens work to connect two words that modify each other.
In other words they connect an adjective and noun to create one noun. A dash can be broken into one of two groups: the long and the short.
The long version is two dashes that frame a word without the use of spacing. This is used to emphasize the good or bad of the initial words.
The short dash is used to combine words such as the December-January issue of a magazine.
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