English in Use/Punctuation

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Punctuation is the art of dividing literary composition, by points, or stops, for the purpose of showing more clearly the sense and relation of the words; and of noting the different pauses and inflections required in reading.

The following are the principal points, or marks:

  • the Comma [,],
  • the Semicolon [;],
  • the Colon [:],
  • the Period, or Full stop [.],
  • the Dash [--],
  • the Note of Interrogation, Question Mark, or Eroteme [?],
  • the Note of Exclamation, Exclamation Mark, or Ecphoneme [!],
  • the Marks of Parenthesis, Brackets or Curves [( )],
  • the Apostrophe ['],
  • the Hyphen [-],
  • the Diaeresis [¨],
  • the Acute accent [´],
  • the Grave accent [`],
  • the Circumflex [ˆ],
  • the Breve [˘],
  • the Macron [¯],
  • the Ellipsis [],
  • the Caret [^],
  • the Tilde [~],
  • the Curly Brackets, or Brace [{}],
  • the Section [§],
  • the Paragraph [],
  • the Quotation Marks [""],
  • the Angle Quotes, or Guillements [«»],
  • the Brackets, or Crotchets [[]],
  • the Index [],
  • the Asterisk [*],
  • the Dagger, or Obelisk [],
  • the Double Dagger, or Diesis [],
  • the Parallels [||],
  • the Asterism [],
  • the Cedilla [¸].

The comma denotes the shortest pause; the semicolon, a pause double that of the comma; the colon, a pause double that of the semicolon; and the period, or full stop, a pause double that of the colon. The pauses required by the other four, vary according to the structure of the sentence, and their place in it. They may be equal to any of the foregoing.



The comma is used to separate those parts of a sentence, which are so nearly connected in sense, as to be only one degree removed from that close connection which admits no point.

Simple sentences


A simple sentence does not, in general, admit the comma: as,

  • "The weakest reasoners are the most positive."—W. Allen's Gram., p. 202.
  • "Theology has not hesitated to make or support a doctrine by the position of a comma."—Tract on Tone, p. 4.
  • "Then pain compels the impatient soul to seize on promised hopes of instantaneous ease."—Crabbe.

Nominative accompanied by adjuncts


When the nominative in a long simple sentence is accompanied by inseparable adjuncts, or when several words together are used instead of a nominative, a comma should be placed immediately before the verb: as,

  • "Confession of sin without amendment, obtains no pardon."—Dillwyn's Reflections, p. 6.
  • "To be totally indifferent to praise or censure, is a real defect in character."—Murray's Gram., p. 268.
  • "O that the tenor of my just complaint, were sculpt with steel in rocks of adamant!"—Sandys.

Simple members


The simple members of a compound sentence, whether successive or involved, elliptical or complete, are generally divided by the comma: as,

  • "Here stand we both, and aim we at the best."—Shak.
  • "I, that did never weep, now melt in woe."—Id.
  • "Tide life, tide death, I come without delay."—Id.
  • "I am their mother, who shall bar me from them?"—Id.
  • "How wretched, were I mortal, were my state!"—Pope.
  • "Go; while you may, avoid the dreadful fate."—Id.
  • "Grief aids disease, remembered folly stings, and his last sighs reproach the faith of kings."—Johnson.

Relative that follows its antecedent


When a relative immediately follows its antecedent, and is taken in a restrictive sense, the comma should not be introduced before it: as,

  • "For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."—2 Cor., iv, 18.
  • "A letter is a character that expresses a sound without any meaning."—St. Quentin's General Gram., p. 3.

Closely connected simple members


When the simple members are short, and closely connected by a conjunction or a conjunctive adverb, the comma is generally omitted: as,

  • "Honest poverty is better than wealthy fraud."—Dillwyn's Ref., p. 11.
  • "Let him tell me whether the number of the stars be even or odd."—Taylor: Joh. Dict., w.
  • "It is impossible that our knowledge of words should outstrip our knowledge of things."—Campbell: Murray's Gram., p 359.

Simple immediately united members


When two simple members are immediately united, through ellipsis of the relative, the antecedent, or the conjunction that, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "Make an experiment on the first man you meet."—Berkley's Alciphron, p. 125.
  • "Our philosophers do infinitely despise and pity whoever shall propose or accept any other motive to virtue."—Ib., p. 126.
  • "It is certain we imagine before we reflect."—Ib., p. 359.
  • "The same good sense that makes a man excel, still makes him doubt he never has written well."—Young.

More than two words


When more than two words or terms are connected in the same construction, or in a joint dependence on some other term, by conjunctions expressed or understood, the comma should be inserted after every one of them but the last; and, if they are nominatives before a verb, the comma should follow the last also: as,

  • "Who, to the enraptured heart, and ear, and eye, teach beauty, virtue, truth, and love, and melody."—Beattie.
  • "Ah! what avails... all that art, fortune, enterprise, can bring, if envy, scorn, remorse, or pride, the bosom wring?"—Id.
  • "Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible; you, stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless."—Shak.
  • "She plans, provides, expatiates, triumphs there."—Young.
  • "So eagerly the fiend over bog, or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare, with head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way, and swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies."—Milton.

Only two words


When only two words or terms are connected by a conjunction, they should not be separated by the comma: as,

  • "It is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms; for true power is to be got by arts and industry"—Spectator, No. 2.
  • "Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul."—Goldsmith.

Two words with several adjuncts


When the two words connected have several adjuncts, or when one of them has an adjunct that relates not to both, the comma is inserted: as,

  • "I shall spare no pains to make their instruction agreeable, and their diversion useful."—Spectator, No. 10.
  • "Who is applied to persons, or things personified."—Bullions.
  • "With listless eyes the dotard views the store, he views, and wonders that they please no more."—Johnson.

Contrasted words or phrases


When two connected words or phrases are contrasted, or emphatically distinguished, the comma is inserted: as,

  • "The vain are easily obliged, and easily disobliged."—Kames.
  • "Liberal, not lavish, is kind nature's hand."—Beattie.
  • "It is certain he could write, and cipher too."—Goldsmith.

Alternative of names


When there is merely an alternative of names, or an explanatory change of terms, the comma is usually inserted: as,

  • "We saw a large opening, or inlet."—W. Allen.
  • "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles?"—Cor., ix, 5.

Understood conjunction


When the conjunction is understood, the comma is inserted; and, if two separated words or terms refer alike to a third term, the second requires a second comma: as,

  • "Reason, virtue, answer one great aim."—L. Murray, Gram., p. 269.
  • "To him the church, the realm, their powers consign."—Johnson.
  • "She thought the isle that gave her birth. The sweetest, wildest land on earth."—Hogg.

Words in pairs


When successive words are joined in pairs by conjunctions, they should be separated in pairs by the comma: as,

  • "Interest and ambition, honour and shame, friendship and enmity, gratitude and revenge, are the prime movers in public transactions."—W. Allen.
  • "But, whether ingenious or dull, learned or ignorant, clownish or polite, every innocent man, without exception, has as good a right to liberty as to life."—Beattie's Moral Science, p. 313.
  • "Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate, overspread with snares the crowded maze of fate."—Dr. Johnson.

Words put absolute


Nouns or pronouns put absolute, should, with their adjuncts, be set off by the comma: as,

  • "The prince, his father being dead, succeeded."
  • "This done, we parted."
  • "Zaccheus, make haste and come down."
  • "His proctorship in Sicily, what did it produce?"—Cicero.
  • "Winged with his fears, on foot he strove to fly, his steeds too distant, and the foe too nigh."—Pope, Iliad, xi, 440.

Appositions or appositives


Words in apposition, especially if they have adjuncts, are generally set off by the comma: as,

  • "He that now calls upon you, is Theodore, the hermit of Teneriffe."—Johnson.
  • "Lowth, Dr. Robert, bishop of London, born in 1710, died in 1787."—Biog. Dict.
  • "Home, Henry, lord Kames."—Ib.
  • "What next I bring shall please you, be assured, your likeness, your fit help, your other self, your wish exactly to your heart's desire."—Milton, P. L., viii, 450.
  • "And he, their prince, shall rank among my peers."—Byron.

A compound name


When several words, in their common order, are used as one compound name, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "Dr. Samuel Johnson,"
  • "Publius Gavius Cosanus."

United common and proper name


When a common and a proper name are closely united, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "The brook Kidron,"
  • "The river Don,"
  • "The empress Catharine,"
  • "Paul the Apostle."

A mere emphasis and distinction


When a pronoun is added to an other word merely for emphasis and distinction, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "You men of Athens,"
  • "I myself,"
  • "You flaming minister,"
  • "You princes."

Name acquired by action or relation


When a name acquired by some action or relation, is put in apposition with a preceding noun or pronoun, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "I made the ground my bed;"
  • "To make him king;"
  • "Whom they revered as God;"
  • "With modesty your guide."—Pope.



Adjectives, when something depends on them, or when they have the import of a dependent clause, should, with their adjuncts, be set off by the comma: as,

  • "Among the roots of hazel, pendent over the plaintive stream, they frame the first foundation of their domes."—Thomson.
  • "Up springs the lark, shrill-voiced and loud, the messenger of morn."—Id.

Adjective which follows its noun


When an adjective immediately follows its noun, and is taken in a restrictive sense, the comma should not be used before it: as,

  • "And on the coast averse from entrance or cherubic watch."—Milton, P. L., B. ix, l. 68.

Finite verbs


Where a finite verb is understood, a comma is generally required: as,

  • "From law arises security; from security, curiosity; from curiosity, knowledge."—Murray.
  • "Else all my prose and verse were much the same; this, prose on stilts; that, poetry fallen lame."—Pope.

A pause for the omitted verb


As the semicolon must separate the clauses when the comma is inserted by this rule, if the pause for the omitted verb be very slight, it may be left unmarked, and the comma be used for the clauses: as,

  • "When the profligate speaks of piety, the miser of generosity, the coward of valour, and the corrupt of integrity, they are only the more despised by those who know them."—Comstock's Elocution, p. 132.



The infinitive, when it follows a verb from which it must be separated, or when it depends on something remote or understood, is generally, with its adjuncts, set off by the comma: as,

  • "One of the greatest secrets in composition is, to know when to be simple."—Jamieson's Rhet., p. 151. [?]
  • "To confess the truth, I was much in fault."—Murray's Gram., p. 271.
  • "The Governor of all—has interposed, not seldom, his avenging arm, to smite the injurious trampler upon nature's law."—Cowper.



Participles, when something depends on them, when they have the import of a dependent clause, or when they relate to something understood, should, with their adjuncts, be set off by the comma: as,

  • "Law is a rule of civil conduct, prescribed by the supreme power in a state, commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong."—Blackstone: Beattie's Moral Science, p. 346.
  • "Young Edwin, lighted by the evening star, lingering and listening wandered down the vale."—Beattie.
  • "United, we stand; divided, we fall."—Motto.
  • "Properly speaking, there is no such thing as chance."

Participle which follows its noun


When a participle immediately follows its noun, and is taken in a restrictive sense, the comma should not be used before it: as,

  • "A man renowned for repartee, will seldom scruple to make free with friendship's finest feeling."—Cowper.



Adverbs, when they break the connection of a simple sentence, or when they have not a close dependence on some particular word in the context, should, with their adjuncts, be set off by the comma: as,

  • "We must not, however, confound this gentleness with the artificial courtesy of the world."
  • "Besides, the mind must be employed."—Gilpin.
  • "Most unquestionably, no fraud was equal to all this."—Lyttelton.
  • "But, unfortunately for us, the tide was ebbing already."
  • "When buttress and buttress, alternately, seem framed of ebon and ivory."—Scott's Lay, p. 33.



Conjunctions, when they are separated from the principal clauses that depend on them, or when they introduce examples, are generally set off by the comma: as,

  • "But, by a timely call upon religion, the force of habit was eluded."—Johnson.
  • "They know the neck that joins the shore and sea, or, ah! how changed that fearless laugh would be."—Crabbe.



Prepositions and their objects, when they break the connection of a simple sentence, or when they do not closely follow the words on which they depend, are generally set off by the comma: as,

  • "Fashion is, for the most part, nothing but the ostentation of riches."
  • "By reading, we add the experience of others to our own."
  • "In vain the sage, with retrospective eye, would from the apparent what conclude the why."—Pope.



Interjections that require a pause, though more commonly emphatic and followed by the ecphoneme, are sometimes set off by the comma: as,

  • "For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north."—Jeremiah, i, 15.
  • "O, it was about something you would not understand."—Columbian Orator, p. 221.
  • "Ha, ha! you were finely taken in, then!"—Aikin.
  • "Ha, ha, ha! A facetious gentleman, truly!"—Id.
  • "Oh, when shall Britain, conscious of her claim, stand emulous of Greek and Roman fame?"—Pope.

Words emphatically repeated


A word emphatically repeated, is generally set off by the comma: as,

  • "Happy, happy, happy pair!"—Dryden.
  • "Ay, ay, there is some comfort in that."—Shak.
  • "Ah! no, no, no."—Dryden.
  • "The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket, the moss-covered bucket, which hung in the well!"—Woodworth.

Dependent quotations


A quotation, observation, or description, when it is introduced in close dependence on a verb, (as, say, reply, cry, or the like,) is generally separated from the rest of the sentence by the comma: as,

  • "'The book of nature,' said he, 'is before you.'"—Hawkesworth.
  • "I say to all, watch."—Mark.
  • "'The boy has become a man,' means, 'He has grown to be a man.' 'Such conduct becomes a man,' means, 'Such conduct befits him.'"—Hart's Gram., p. 116.
  • "While man exclaims, 'See all things for my use!' 'See man for mine!' replies a pampered goose."—Pope.



The semicolon is used to separate those parts of a compound sentence, which are neither so closely connected as those which are distinguished by the comma, nor so little dependent as those which require the colon.

Complex members


When two or more complex members, or such clauses as require the comma in themselves, are constructed into a period, they are generally separated by the semicolon: as,

  • "In the regions inhabited by angelic natures, unmingled felicity forever blooms; joy flows there with a perpetual and abundant stream, nor needs any mound to check its course."—Carter.
  • "When the voice rises, the gesture naturally ascends; and when the voice makes the falling inflection, or lowers its pitch, the gesture follows it by a corresponding descent; and, in the level and monotonous pronunciation of the voice, the gesture seems to observe a similar limitation, by moving rather in the horizontal direction, without much varying its elevation."—Comstock's Elocution, p. 107.
  • "The wide, the unbounded prospect lies before me; but shadows, clouds, and darkness, rest upon it."—Addison.

Simple members


When two or more simple members, or such clauses as complete their sense without subdivision, are constructed into a period; if they require a pause greater than that of the comma, they are usually separated by the semicolon: as,

  • "Straws swim on the surface; but pearls lie at the bottom."—Murray's Gram., p. 276.
  • "Everything grows old; everything passes away; everything disappears."—Hiley's Gram., p. 115.
  • "Alexander asked them the distance of the Persian capital; what forces the king of Persia could bring into the field; what the Persian government was; what was the character of the king; how he treated his enemies; what were the most direct ways into Persia."—Whelpley's Lectures, p. 175.
  • "A longer care man's helpless kind demands; that longer care contracts more lasting bands."—Pope.



Words in apposition, in disjunct pairs, or in any other construction, if they require a pause greater than that of the comma, and less than that of the colon, may be separated by the semicolon: as,

  • "Pronouns have three cases; the nominative, the possessive, and the objective."—Murray's Gram., p. 51.
  • "Judge, judgement; lodge, lodgement; acknowledge, acknowledgement."—Butler's Gram., p. 11.
  • "Do not the eyes discover humility, pride; cruelty, compassion; reflection, dissipation; kindness, resentment?"—Sheridan's Elocution, p. 159.
  • "This rule forbids parents to lie to children, and children to parents; instructors to pupils, and pupils to instructors; the old to the young, and the young to the old; attorneys to jurors, and jurors to attorneys; buyers to sellers, and sellers to buyers."—Wayland's Moral Science, p. 304.
  • "Make, made; have, had; pay, paid; say, said; leave, left; dream, dreamt; mean, meant; reave and bereave have reft." —Ward's Gr., p. 66.



The colon is used to separate those parts of a compound sentence, which are neither so closely connected as those which are distinguished by the semicolon, nor so little dependent as those which require the period.

Additional remarks


When the preceding clause is complete in itself, but is followed by some additional remark or illustration, especially if no conjunction is used, the colon is generally and properly inserted: as,

  • "Avoid evil doers: in such society, an honest man may become ashamed of himself."
  • "See that moth fluttering incessantly round the candle: man of pleasure, behold your image!"—Art of Thinking, p. 94.
  • "Some things we can, and others we cannot do: we can walk, but we cannot fly."—Beanie's Moral Science, p. 112.
  • "Remember heaven has an avenging rod: to smite the poor, is treason against God."—Cowper.

Greater pauses


When the semicolon has been introduced, or when it must be used in a subsequent member, and a still greater pause is required within the period, the colon should be employed: as,

  • "Princes have courtiers, and merchants have partners; the voluptuous have companions, and the wicked have accomplices: none but the virtuous can have friends."
  • "Unless the truth of our religion be granted, a christian must be the greatest monster in nature: he must at the same time be eminently wise, and notoriously foolish; a wise man in his practice, and a fool in his belief: his reasoning powers must be deranged by a constant delirium, while his conduct never swerves from the path of propriety."—Principles of Eloquence, p. 80
  • "A decent competence we fully taste; it strikes our sense, and gives a constant feast: more we perceive by dint of thought alone; the rich must labour to possess their own."—Young.

Independent quotations


A quotation introduced without a close dependence on a verb or a conjunction, is generally preceded by the colon: as,

  • "In his last moments, he uttered these words: 'I fall a sacrifice to sloth and luxury.'"
  • "At this the king hastily retorted: 'No put-offs, my lord; answer me presently.'"—Churchill's Gram., p. 367.
  • "The father addressed himself to them to this effect: 'O my sons, behold the power of unity!'"— Rippingham's Art of Speaking, p. 85.



The period, or full stop, is used to mark an entire and independent sentence, whether simple or compound.

Distinct sentences


When a sentence, whether long or short, is complete in respect to sense, and independent in respect to construction, it should be marked with the period: as,

  • "Every deviation from truth is criminal. Abhor a falsehood. Let your words be ingenuous. Sincerity possesses the most powerful charm."
  • "The force of a true individual is felt through every clause and part of a right book; the commas and dashes are alive with it."—R. W. Emerson.
  • "By frequent trying, Troy was won. All things, by trying, may be done."—Lloyd, p. 184.

Allied sentences


The period is often employed between two sentences which have a general connection, expressed by a personal pronoun, a conjunction, or a conjunctive adverb: as,

  • "The selfish man languishes in his narrow circle of pleasures. They are confined to what affects his own interests. He is obliged to repeat the same gratifications, till they become insipid. But the man of virtuous sensibility moves in a wider sphere of felicity."—Blair.
  • "And whether we shall meet again, I know not. Therefore our everlasting farewell take."—Shak., J. C.



The period is generally used after abbreviations, and very often to the exclusion of other points; but, as in this case it is not a constant sign of pause, other points may properly follow it, if the words written in full would demand them: as, A. D. for Anno Domini; Pro tem. for pro tempore; Ult. for ultimo; i.e. for id est, that is;

  • "Add., Spect, No. 285."
  • For "Addison, in the Spectator, Number 285th."
  • "Consult the statute; 'Quart.' I think, it is, 'Edwardi sext.,' or 'prim. et quint. Eliz.'"—Pope, p. 399.



The dash is mostly used to denote an unexpected or emphatic pause, of variable length; but sometimes it is a sign of faltering, or of the irregular stops of one who hesitates in speaking: as,

  • "Then, after many pauses, and inarticulate sounds, he said: 'He was very sorry for it, was extremely concerned it should happen so—but—a—it was necessary—a—' Here lord E— stopped him short, and bluntly demanded, if his post were destined for an other."—Churchill's Gram., p. 170.

Abrupt pauses


A sudden interruption, break, or transition, should be marked with the dash: as,

  • "'I must inquire into the affair; and if'—'And if!' interrupted the farmer."
  • "Whom I—But first it is fit the billows to restrain."—Dryd. Virg. 3.
  • "Here lies the great—False marble! where? Nothing but sordid dust lies here."—Young.

Emphatic pauses


To mark a considerable pause, greater than the structure or the sentence or the points inserted would seem to require, the dash may be employed: as,

  • "I pause for a reply.—None?—Then none have I offended.—I have done no more to Caesar, than you should do to Brutus."—Shakspeare: Enfields Speaker, p. 182.
  • "Tarry a little. There is something else.—This bond—doesn't give you here—no jot of blood." —ID.: Burgh's Sp., p. 167.
  • "It thunders;—but it thunders to preserve."—Young.
  • "Behold the picture!—Is it like?—Like whom?"—Cowper.

Faulty dashes


Dashes needlessly inserted, or substituted for other stops more definite, are in general to be treated as errors in punctuation: as,

  • "Here Greece stands by itself as opposed to the other nations of antiquity—She was none of the other nations—She was more polished than they."—Lennie's Gram., p. 78.
  • "Here Greece stands by herself, as opposed to the other nations of antiquity. She was none of the other nations: she was more polished than they."—Bullions, E. Gram., p. 114.

If this colon is sufficient, the capital after it is needless: a period would, perhaps, be better.

Note of interrogation


The eroteme, or note of interrogation, is used to designate a question.

Questions direct


Questions expressed directly as such, if finished, should always be followed by the note of interrogation: as,

  • "Was it possible that virtue so exalted should be erected upon injustice? that the proudest and the most ambitious of mankind should be the great master and accomplished pattern of humility? that a doctrine so pure as the Gospel should be the work of an uncommissioned pretender? that so perfect a system of morals should be established on blasphemy?"—Jerningham's Essay, p. 81.
  • "In life, can love be bought with gold? Are friendship's pleasures to be sold?"—Johnson.

Questions united


When two or more questions are united in one compound sentence, the comma, semicolon, or dash, is sometimes used to separate them, and the eroteme occurs after the last only: as,

  • "When—under what administration—under what exigencies of war or peace—did the Senate ever before deal with such a measure in such a manner? Never, sir, never."—D. Webster, in Congress, 1846.
  • "Cannot you, and honoured with a christian name, buy what is woman-born, and feel no shame; trade in the blood of innocence, and plead expedience as a warrant for the deed?"—Cowper.
  • "Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land? All fear, none aid you, and few understand."—Pope.

Questions indirect


When a question is mentioned, but not put directly as a question, it loses both the quality and the sign of interrogation: as,

  • "The Cyprians asked me why I wept."—Murray.

Note of exclamation


The ecphoneme, or note of exclamation, is used to denote a pause with some strong emotion of admiration, joy, grief, or other feeling; and, as a sign of great wonder, it is sometimes, though not very elegantly, repeated: as,

  • "Grammatical consistency!!! What a gem!"—Peirce's Gram., p. 352.



Emphatic interjections, and other expressions of great emotion, are generally followed by the note of exclamation: as,

  • "Hold! hold! Is the devil in you? Oh! I am bruised all over."—Molière: Burgh's Speaker, p. 250.
  • "And O! till earth, and seas, and heaven decay, never may that fair creation fade away!"—Dr. Lowth.



After an earnest address or solemn invocation, the note of exclamation is now generally preferred to any other point: as,

  • "Whereupon, O king Agrippa! I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision."—Acts, xxvi, 19.
  • "Be witness you, immortal Lord of all! Whose thunder shakes the dark aerial hall."—Pope.

Exclamatory questions


Words uttered with vehemence in the form of a question, but without reference to an answer, should be followed by the note of exclamation: as,

  • "How madly have I talked!"—Young.
  • "An Author! It is a venerable name! How few deserve it, and what numbers claim!"—Id., Br. Po., viii, 401.



The curves, or marks of parenthesis, are used to distinguish a clause or hint that is hastily thrown in between the parts of a sentence to which it does not properly belong: as,

  • "Their enemies (and enemies they will always have) would have a handle for exposing their measures."—Walpole.
  • "To others do (the law is not severe) what to yourself you wish to be done."—Beattie.

The incidental clause should be uttered in a lower tone, and faster than the principal sentence. It always requires a pause as great as that of a comma, or greater.



A clause that breaks the unity of a sentence or passage too much to be incorporated with it, and only such, should be inclosed within curves, as a parenthesis: as,

  • "For I know that in me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing."—Rom., vii, 18.
  • "Know then this truth, (enough for man to know,) virtue alone is happiness below."—Pope.

Included points


The curves do not supersede other stops; and, as the parenthesis terminates with a pause equal to that which precedes it, the same point should be included, except when the sentences differ in form: as,

  • "Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as to my children,) be you also enlarged."—2 Cor., vi, 13.
  • "Man's thirst of happiness declares it is: (for nature never gravitates to nought:) that thirst unquenched, declares it is not here."—Young.
  • "Night visions may befriend: (as sung above:) our waking dreams are fatal. How I dreamt of things impossible! (could sleep do more?) of joys perpetual in perpetual change!"—Young.



The apostrophe usually denotes either the possessive case of a noun, or the elision of one or more letters of a word: as,

  • "The girl's regard to her parents' advice;"

'Gan, lov'd, e'en, thro'; for began, loved, even, through. It is sometimes used in pluralizing a mere letter or sign: as,

  • "Two a's—three 6's."



The hyphen connects the parts of many compound words, especially such as have two accents: as, ever-living. It is also frequently inserted where a word is divided into syllables: as, con-tem-plate. Placed at the end of a line, it shows that one or more syllables of a word are can led forward to the next line.



The diaeresis, or dialysis, placed over either of two contiguous vowels, shows that they are not a diphthong: as, Danaee, aerial.

Acute accent


The acute accent marks the syllable which requires the principal stress in pronunciation: as, e'qual, equal'ity. It is sometimes used in opposition to the grave accent, to distinguish a close or short vowel: as, Fancy; or to denote the rising inflection of the voice: as,

  • "Is it he?"

Grave accent


The grave accent is used in opposition to the acute, to distinguish an open or long vowel: as, Favour; or to denote the falling inflection of the voice: as,

  • "Yes; it is he."

It is sometimes placed over a vowel to show that it is not to be suppressed in pronunciation: as,

  • "Let me, though in humble speech, your refined maxims teach."—Amer. Review, May, 1848.



The circumflex generally denotes either the broad sound of a or an unusual sound given to some other vowel: as in all, heir, machine. Some use it to mark a peculiar wave of the voice, and when occasion requires, reverse it: as,

  • "If you said sô, then I said so."



The breve, or stenotone, is used to denote either the close, short, shut sound of a vowel, or a syllable of short quantity: as, lĭve, to have life; răven, to devour; călămŭs, a reed.



The macron, or macrotone, is used to denote either the open, long, primal sound of a vowel, or a syllable of long quantity: as, līve, having life; rāven, a bird; ēquīne, of a horse.



The ellipsis, or suppression, denotes the omission of some letters or words: as, K…g, for King; c…d, for coward; d…d, for damned.



The caret, used only in writing, shows where to insert words or letters that have been accidentally omitted.



The tilde, "ã", is a diacritic mark, and tilde over a letter is used to make abbreviations.



The brace serves to unite a triplet; or, more frequently, to connect several terms with something to which they are all related.



The section marks the smaller divisions of a book or chapter; and, with the help of numbers, serves to abridge references.



The paragraph denotes the commencement of a new subject. The parts of discourse which are called paragraphs, are, in general, sufficiently distinguished by beginning a new line, and carrying the first word a little forwards or backwards. The paragraphs of books being in some instances numbered, this character may occasionally be used, in lieu of the word paragraph, to shorten references.

Quotation points


The guillements, or quotation points, distinguish words that are exhibited as those of an other author or speaker. A quotation within a quotation, is usually marked with single points; which, when both are employed, are placed within the others: as,

  • "And again he said, 'Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.'"—Rom., xv, 10.



The crotchets, or brackets, generally inclose some correction or explanation, but sometimes the sign or subject to be explained: as,

  • "He [Mr. Maurice] was of a different opinion."—Allen's Gram., p. 213.



The index, or hand, points out something remarkable, or what the reader should particularly observe.



The asterisk, or star, the obelisk, or dagger, the diesis, or double dagger, the section, the parallels, and the paragraph, refer to marginal notes. Where many references are to be made, the small letters of the alphabet, or the numerical figures, in their order, may be conveniently used for the same purpose.



The asterism, or three stars, a sign not very often used, is placed before a long or general note, to mark it as a note, without giving it a particular reference.



The cedilla is borrowed from the French. It is placed under the letter c, to give it the sound of s, before a or o: as, Façade, Alençon. It is sometimes attached to other letters, to denote their soft sounds: Ģ as J; Ş as Z.