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Information & Advice

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Writing 5 - Punctuation


For possession:   


Smith's article makes some useful points.

For plural possession:   


The students' work must be typed.

For missing letters:   


It's going to be ready on time.

I'm going to get a 2:1.

(Do not use this in formal essays.)

Apostrophe is not to be used for plural:          



1) To mark a pause in a sentence, making the meaning easier to follow. You may like to test for this by reading your work aloud:

As has been noted, functionalism refuted the identity theory.

2) To separate an idea which is a sort of 'aside':

This theory, although it is attractive, has been refuted by many authorities.

3) To divide up a list:

I read books, articles, papers and crisp packets.

4) To mark the start of a sub-section or 'clause':

Jones elegantly disproves this theory, which she likens to a load of old rubbish.

If what follows your comma is in fact a sentence in structure, the comma is too weak and a full-stop is required. For example:

Catism is more succinct than dogism, the library has hardly any references to catism at all.

In that example, 'the library’ is a new subject; 'catism' is the subject of the first part.

However, you could have used a semi-colon (see below for more information)

Semi-colon ( ; )

This is used where two short sentences are very closely linked, because they are part of one idea:

Monkey females look after and protect their young; female monkeys can be particularly threatening when their young are attacked.

The test for correct use of a semi-colon is: could you put a full-stop instead?

There must be a sentence-type structure each side.

The look of a semi-colon is a clue to its use; it is a combination of a full-stop and a comma, and its 'power' is between the two of them.

Colon ( : )

This should be thought of as meaning 'and this is what I mean’ or 'here are the examples’ or 'this is the list':

This occurs because of three factors: woman's procreation role, her social role and socialisation.

This leads to the third factor: women are socialised by their mothers and not by men.

For this experiment, we will require the following: a pin, two lemons and a dog.

Colons are also used to introduce quotations:

Block writes: “It looks as if qualia are not in the domain of psychology”. (Block, 2005, p1)

Use one before a long quotation too:

Smith's argument here is convincing:

“In order for the main characters in the book to be explored, one must refer closely to psychoanalytical theory. That is one advocated blhajhsjhdjhsjhsjhedufh…..”

(Smith 2005, pps2-3)