The Most Useful Punctuation and Capitalization Rules
We’ve all had a chuckle or two when students or others have misused punctuation.
Of course the famous “Let’s eat grandma” would rank close to the top. Others include “I always have enjoyed cooking my friends, neighbors, and most of all my family” or the neighborhood sign, “SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY.”
My favorite would have to be this one:
“A woman, without her man, is nothing.” Let’s revise as the following: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”
Wish I knew whom to credit for this one:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, and thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy. Will you let me be yours?
Now let’s see the difference just by moving around the punctuation:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, and thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Knowing how to properly punctuate and capitalize will help readers better understand what one intends. Additionally, readers judge misuse quite harshly. Following are punctuation with examples and capitalization with examples:
-Use commas before or after speaker tags.
She said, “Call me at home.”
-Use commas to set apart appositives.
That man, the one with the hat, left.
-Use commas after each item in lists (except the last).
John, Jane, and Jose left early.
-Use commas after introductory words or phrases.
First of all, you should listen to me.
-Use commas between number dates and years.
It all happened on May 3, 1999.
-Use commas between geographical places.
She lived in Tampa, Florida.
-Use commas after greetings/closings in personal letters.
Dear Ralph, … Sincerely, …
-Use commas after nouns of direct address.
Kristin, leave some for your sister.
-Use commas before conjunctions to join two independent clauses.
I liked her, and she liked me.
-Use exclamation points for surprise or strong emotions.
The decision really shocked me!
-Use quotation marks before and after direct quotations.
Sue said, “I’m going to bed.”
-Use quotation marks before and after songs, poems, document titles, book chapters, magazine articles, and short story titles.
Whenever I hear “Clementine,” it reminds me of “Leaves of Grass” and “The Gettysburg Address.”
-Use colons after business letter greetings.
-Use colons to introduce lists.
The following: shoes, pants, and…
-Use colons between numbers in relationship.
-Use semicolons to join independent clauses without conjunctions.
Jamal went to school; Larry met him.
-Underline movie, television show, book, magazine, and work of art titles.
I saw the wonderful Fiddler on the Roof last night.
-Use apostrophes for contractions.
I can’t see what they’re doing.
-Use apostrophes for singular and plural possessives.
Tom’s and the girls’ coats were red.
-Use parentheses to explain or define.
The hombre (man) rode off alone.
-Capitalize proper nouns (a name that is given to special persons, places, or things).
Ryan visited Los Angeles to visit the Holocaust Museum.
-Capitalize holidays, dates, groups, organizations, and businesses.
Last Easter on March 24, 2002 the P.T.A. and McDonald’s helped out.
-Capitalize the first, last, and any important words in titles.
Prince Charles’s favorite book was Islands of Adventure.
-Capitalize the names of languages and peoples.
He spoke Spanish to the Indians.
-Capitalize special events and historical periods.
The New Year’s Day Parade celebrates the Year of the Dog.
The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.
Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Teaching the Language Strand program.
The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Teaching the Language Strand “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).