Punctuation can be used, really, to just, again, give some difference in sentence structure and help you use those other two tools, the syntax and the sentence structure, and then still show different relationships between the ideas. So whether you use a semicolon or a period or a comma, they show different things.

So a semicolon is going to show two related ideas that are complete sentences. A comma is going to, you know, maybe separate items in a list or maybe separate, if it’s used with an and, maybe separate two complete sentences. If you have two commas, you’re making that phrase kind of like a “by the way” side note. So for example, the third one down here, we have, “Managers, responsible for accurate and effective communication, must tell employees about organizational changes.” That internal part—“responsible for accurate and effective communication”—that’s sort of like a side note, so it’s set off with those commas. And the last example uses a colon to kind of set off a list or an important or emphatic part of the sentence. These can definitely help you to vary the structure and to engage your reader in a different way.

I think you probably are familiar with, you know, the use of an exclamation point versus a period. If you get an e-mail from your boss that says, “Great job!” with an exclamation point, that makes you feel pretty good. If you get an e-mail from someone that just says, “Great job, period,” you don’t know whether they are enthusiastic or sarcastic…. it’s difficult to know, right. So punctuation makes a big difference in how you engage your readers.

[Source: Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/c.php?g=465757&p=3307620 ]


Welcome to the Writing Center’s crash course in punctuation for scholarly writing! Crash course videos are a great fit if you are new to or have not used scholarly writing or English grammar in some time.

There are many punctuation rules in English, but in this video we’ll focus on the most commonly used types of punctuation in academic writing: periods, commas, semicolons, colons, parentheses, and quotation marks. We’ll give you quick tips and introduce you to the correct and incorrect way to use each punctuation mark, but we won’t be talking about them in-depth—remember, this is a crash course!

Instead, get out a pen and paper. If you’re not familiar with one of these punctuation marks, write it down so you can look it up later! At the end of the video we’ll show you where to find more information on our website. Let’s get started!

Periods are the most common type of punctuation, and they come at the end of a complete sentence. This example is correct because it is a complete sentence – it has a subject, verb, and a complete idea, and ends with a period.

This example is incorrect because it is not a complete idea. It is only a phrase, or a group of words, and not a complete sentence.

Commas in academic writing follow a few patterns, and we’re going to focus on two common uses of commas.  First, commas are commonly used to connect two complete ideas in one sentence with a coordinating conjunction word like and, but, or so.  The first example is correct because it includes a comma before the word but and the sentence includes two complete ideas.

The second example is incorrect because it is missing the comma before the coordinating conjunction but.

The second common way we use commas is to separate clauses and phrases from the rest of the sentence, usually extra information that is not essential to the basic meaning of the sentence. This example is correct because the extra information is surrounded by commas.

This example is incorrect because the extra, nonessential information is not surrounded by commas.

Semicolons connect two complete sentences that have related ideas. This example is correct because the semicolon connects the two complete sentences.

This example is incorrect because the second part after the semicolon is not a complete idea.

Colons separate an idea from a complete sentence, like a list or a related idea. This example is correct because the information before the colon is a complete sentence and the information after the colon is a list.

This example is incorrect because there is not a complete sentence prior to the colon.

Parentheses set off nonessential information within a sentence; this is information that is not relevant to the meaning of the sentence, but might be helpful to the reader. Parentheses are also used in APA style for citations.

This example is correct because the extra information is set off in parentheses.

This example is incorrect because the nonessential information is only set apart by a comma.

Quotation marks indicate information taken from another source. This example is correct because the Samson’s wording is in quotation marks, showing the reader that it is a direct quote.

This example is incorrect because the quotation marks are missing, so the reader wouldn’t know this wording is from Samson.

Now that you’ve learned about punctuation for scholarly writing, it’s important to look at more examples and find out more about any punctuation marks you aren’t sure about. To do so, search our website to find the examples and detailed information we have about these punctuation marks.

Use the search box at the top-right corner, the Quick Answers box, or the main menus to find more information and begin learning!

[Source: Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/c.php?g=465757&p=4333412 ]


Students very often find punctuation, even more than other elements of grammar, to be quite tricky. Punctuation rules can seem arbitrary. They can seem unclear and elusive and it can seem like, you know, only picky, strict people care about where I’m putting my comma or my period. The goal is not to have you memorize a whole bunch of rules. Instead, think of these punctuation marks as symbols that guide your reader through the territory of your ideas. These punctuation marks really do guide your reader and it tells your reader how the different elements of your sentence fit together and relate to each other to express your ideas.

And I want to show you a very common joke that’s going around. I’m reevaluation my grammar geek side, but I happen to love punctuation humor this little comma is the difference between “Let’s eat, grandma!” you know, calling your grandma to the dinner table, and “Let’s eat grandma!”—You know, let’s devour my mother’s mother. So punctuation not only helps your reader understand your ideas more clearly, but it does indeed save lives as well.

[Source: Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/c.php?g=465757&p=3437520 ]


See also:

Period or Full Stop

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