The Importance of Consistency in Punctuation
When using punctuation marks such as dashes, quotation marks, parentheses and brackets, and commas, you must always be sure that every opening mark has a closing mark to follow it. An opening mark is a punctuation mark that begins the sentence, idea, or insertion of words in the middle of a sentence. A closing mark is a punctuation mark, matching the opening mark, that closes the sentence, idea, or interrupting thoughts. Having these marks ensures balance and rhythm to your sentence.
Dashes are used to set apart information that occurs in the middle of a sentence. They can be used to set apart a complete sentence, or they can add emphasis to a modifying word or phrase.
- Everything about school-from learning new math problems to reading new books-excites me for the new semester.
- The girl-surrounded by her friends-went to the teacher’s desk for help.
An opening dash and a closing dash are used in these examples to maintain balance and allow for the continuation of the sentence. While one dash could used to set off a single word or small phrase that begins or ends the sentence, it wouldn’t allow for the continuation of the sentence.
Parentheses are used to hold information that gives clarity or adds unnecessary information to the sentence.
- My favorite shoes (the green ones) have a hole in them.
When separating information using parentheses, there must be an opening parenthesis and a closing parenthesis. If you only used an opening parenthesis, the reader could not differentiate between what is necessary to the sentence and what is just an addition.
Brackets are used to add an explanation or extra original content to the middle of a quote.
- “To be [alive] or not to be”
In this example, brackets are used to insert the writer’s personal thoughts or explanation into the text. The words within the brackets can be the writer’s feelings or they could provide deeper insight to what the quote is really saying. In the example we looked at, adding [alive] just helps to clarify exactly what Hamlet was talking about in his soliloquy when he said those famous words.
When using commas to insert non-essential information into a sentence, two commas must be used; one before the insert and one after. Because the information is unnecessary to the overall sentence, it must be set off by the opening and closing commas in order to avoid mixing up the information.
- On days that end in -y, which is every day, I read a new play.
The information between the commas is not necessary to the sentence because it is common knowledge (hopefully) that all days of the week end with a -y. By adding a comma before and after the insert, the sentence is allowed to continue and still makes sense if you were to remove the added information.
One last punctuation mark that should always have an opening mark and a closing mark is the quotation mark. Quotation marks are used to include dialogue in text. It’s absolutely key to have a beginning and an ending quotation mark in order to keep what is being said and what is just part of the text separate.
She replied, “My favorite play is Hamlet.” After hearing this, her teacher decided they would read Hamlet next.
As you can see from the example, the dialogue is kept separate from the rest of the text by including the girl’s words in a set of quotation marks.
It’s important when writing sentences to think about the balance that you are creating with your words and with the punctuation you use. In this video, we’ve learned the importance of using an opening and a closing punctuation mark to set off information in the middle of sentences.
Be sure to check out the rest of our channel for more help with punctuation! See you next time!