A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Learn how to use proper punctuation.

Below is a summary of how to punctuate different sentence patterns and how to analyze the likely effect of different syntactical forms on readers' comprehension.

Commas: Understand conventions for using commas and appreciate the likely effects of particular sentence lengths and patterns on reading comprehension.

Dashes: Create emphasis and define terms by interrupting the flow of a sentence using a dash; know when the dash must be used as opposed to the comma.

Colons: Use the colon when the first sentence anticipates the second sentence or phrase, thereby creating an emphatic tone.

Semicolons: Use a semicolon to join two sentences or to punctuate a series or list of appositives that already include commas.