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WT 320 Marking Punctuation

Teacher Tips and Answers


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Proofreader’s Guide

Student on Expedition
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Marking Punctuation

A period tells you to stop. A comma makes you pause. A question mark asks for information, and an exclamation point brings excitement! These punctuation marks shape your reading and writing journey.

In this first part of the “Proofreader’s Guide,” you’ll learn to use each important piece of punctuation. Turn here for rules and examples to guide you on your way!

On Your Mark

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A period is used at the end of a sentence. A period has other important uses, too.

  A period after a sentence acts like a stop sign.

At the End of a Sentence

Use a period at the end of a sentence that makes a statement.

  A statement ends with a period. (statement)

Also use a period at the end of a request or a command.

  Please end a request with a period. (request)

  Use a period with a command. (command)

After an Initial

Use a period after an initial in a person’s name.

  E. B. White  C. S. Lewis

After an Abbreviation

Use a period after an abbreviation that shortens a word. (See pages 338–339.)

  Ms.  Mrs.  Mr.  Dr.  E.  Third St.

As a Decimal in a Number

Use a period as a decimal point in numbers.

  I am 99.9 percent sure that I brought my homework.

Use a period to separate dollars and cents.

  That book costs $12.95.

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Commas tell a reader where to rest or pause in a sentence. They are used to make your writing easier to read.

  A comma (,) looks like a period with a tail on it.

Between Items in a Series

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Use a comma between words or phrases in a series. (A series is a list of three or more things.)

  I like apples, oranges, and grapes. (words)

  My cat sleeps all afternoon, wakes at dinnertime, and yowls for treats. (phrases)

In Letter Writing

Use a comma after the greeting in a friendly letter or email message.

  Dear Principal Jones, (greeting)

Use a comma after the closing in letters and email messages.


  Celeste (closing)

To Keep Numbers Clear

Use a comma in numbers of four or more digits.

  The funniest video won $20,000!

  Our school collected 17,000 aluminum cans!

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Comma (continued)

Between a City and a State

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Use a comma between a city and a state in a sentence or in an address.

  We live in Boise, Idaho. (sentence)


  714 Maple Avenue

  Eunice, LA 70530 (address)

Do not use a comma between a state and a ZIP code.

In Dates and Addresses

Use a comma between the day and the year in a sentence or in the heading of a letter.

  I watched the Memorial Day Parade on May 27, 2024. (sentence)

  July 18, 2024 (heading of a letter)

Do not use a comma between a month and a year.

In Compound Sentences

Use a comma before the connecting word in a compound sentence. A compound sentence is made up of two simple sentences that are connected by or, and, or but.

  My room was a mess, but I knew where everything was.

  I cleaned this afternoon , and now I can’t find anything.

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To Set Off a Speaker’s Words

Use a comma to set off the exact words of a speaker from the rest of the sentence.

  Maya said, “Baby muskoxen are so cute.”

  “Be careful,” Dr. Oakley warned. “They’re little bulldozers.”

  “Yes,” Maya replied, “but they’re cute little bulldozers!”

After an Introductory Word or Group of Words

A Word That Expresses Emotion

Use a comma to set off an interjection. An interjection is a word that shows emotion.

  “Whoa, that raven is huge!”

The Name of a Person Spoken To

Use a comma to set off the name of someone you are speaking to.

  “Willow, did you feed that raven?”

An Introductory Group of Words

Use a comma to set off a group of words that comes before the main part of a sentence.

  With a little piece of cheese, Willow made a new friend.

Between Describing Words

Use a comma between two words that describe the same noun.

  Sierra had a long, exhausting flight.

  She is a young, dedicated veterinary student.

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A colon is used in three special cases, including to show time.

  To make a colon, put one dot on top of another one (:).

Between Numbers in Time

Use a colon between the parts of a number showing time.

  I woke up at 6:45 a.m.

  Tonight, I’ll go to bed at 9:30 p.m.

In a Business Letter

Use a colon after the greeting in a business letter.

  Dear Mr. Frank:

  Dear Editor:

  Dear Ms. Grohl:

  Dear Senator:

To Introduce a List

Use a colon to introduce a list.

  I love three summer things: sleeping in, sudden thunderstorms, and watermelon.

Student Dreams of Summer
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An apostrophe is used to make contractions or to show ownership.

  An apostrophe looks like a comma, but it floats above the letters it separates: It’s like a balloon!

In Contractions

Use an apostrophe to form a contraction. The apostrophe takes the place of one or more letters.








Short For

  is not

  would have

  it is / it has

  I am

  you are

  she is

To Form Possessives (Ownership)

Singular Possessive

An apostrophe plus an s is added to a singular noun to show ownership. (Singular means “one.”)

  My teachers job is tough. The classs volume is often turned up to 11.

Plural Possessive

An apostrophe is usually added after the s in a plural noun to show ownership. (Plural means “more than one.”)

  Both sisters essays won awards.

For plural nouns not ending in s, an apostrophe plus an s must be added.

  The peoples votes decide.

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Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are used to punctuate titles and to set off a speaker’s exact words. Remember that quotation marks always come in pairs. One set comes before the quoted words, and a closing set comes after them, like this:

  Dad said, Watch for wildlife on the Mississippi.

To Set Off Spoken Words

Use quotation marks before and after the exact words of the speaker.

  A bald eagle! I shouted.

  Dad replied, They fish the Mississippi all along here.

  Wow, I said, grabbing fish while they fly?

  Yep. Dad pointed downriver. Watch this one skim the water. . . . He just caught a fish!

In most cases, periods, commas, question marks, and exclamation points at the end of quoted text are placed inside the quotation marks.

To Punctuate Titles

Use quotation marks to punctuate titles of short works like songs, poems, and short stories.

  In music class, we sang Under the Sea.

  Ms. Wilson read a poem called Jabberwocky.

  I wrote a story called Beware the Beast of Bray Road!

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A hyphen is used to join two words that work together.

To Join Compound Nouns and Adjectives

  Athens and Sparta were city-states.

  I got a first-place trophy!

Some compound adjectives include many words.

  I am a soon-to-be superstar, not just a run-of-the-mill third grader.

In Fractions

Use a hyphen between the numbers in fractions written as words.

  We watched two-thirds of the episode before bedtime.

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To Divide Words

Use a hyphen to divide a word at the end of a line.

  Can you tell a cricket from a grass-

(Divide words between syllables. For example, grass-hop-per can be divided in two places.)

Question Mark

A question mark is used at the end of a direct question.

At the End of a Question

  What’s your favorite food?

  Have you ever had shawarma?

  How about sushi?

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Exclamation Point

An exclamation point is used to express strong feeling. It may be placed after a word, a phrase, or a sentence.

To Express Strong Feelings

  Wow! (word)

  What a beautiful dress! (phrase)

  I love that color on you! (sentence)

Don’t use too many exclamation points in your writing. They lose their value when they are used again and again.


Parentheses are used to add information. Parentheses come in pairs.

To Add Information

  Parentheses (like these) set off extra information within a sentence.

  Sometimes parentheses can set off a whole sentence. (This is an example.)

If a whole sentence appears in parentheses, capitalize and punctuate it just as if it stood alone.

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Underlining and Italics

Underlining is used to mark titles of long works: books, plays, television programs, movies, and magazines. If you use a computer, you can put titles in italics instead of underlining them.

For Titles

  The Wild Robot or The Wild Robot (a book)

  Elemental or Elemental (a movie)

  Nature or Nature (a television program)

  Cricket or Cricket (a magazine)

Use quotation marks (“ ”) for titles of short works like poems, songs, and short stories.

For Special Words

Use underlining (or italics) to mark the names of aircraft and ships.

  USS Enterprise or USS Enterprise (aircraft carrier)

  Voyager 1 or Voyager 1 (spacecraft)


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Vocabulary List:
  • punctuation marks: small marks such as periods and commas, which organize words, phrases, and clauses

Vocabulary List:
  • period: dot (.) marking the end of a sentence or showing abbreviation

Vocabulary List:
  • comma: dot with a tail (,) indicating a pause in thought or separating ideas

Vocabulary List:
  • colon: stacked dots (:) used in times or to introduce ideas that follow

Vocabulary List:
  • apostrophe: dot with a tail ('), which floats above the line to indicate missing letters in contractions or to show ownership

Vocabulary List:
  • quotation marks: pairs of curved marks that surround titles, dialogue, or words used in special ways

Vocabulary List:
  • hyphen: short horizontal line (-) that connects related words

  • question mark: curled line above a dot (?), which follows a question

Vocabulary List:
  • exclamation point: vertical line above a dot (!), indicating strong emotion

  • parentheses: pairs of curved vertical lines ( ) that enclose additional informationt

Vocabulary List:
  • underlining: horizontal line under titles or special words

  • italics: slanted lettering used for titles and special words

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