Jun 24, 2014

Grammar Hammer: Punctuation Saves Lives, Part II


This blog post was updated on October 27, 2015.

Proper punctuation is critical to successfully communicating your content’s message.

In part one of our “Punctuation Saves Lives” series, I covered punctuation that indicates full stops (periods, question marks, and exclamation points), pauses (commas, colons, and semicolons), and connections (dashes and hyphens).

The series wraps up with a look at brackets, parentheses, braces, ellipses, quotation marks, and apostrophes.

How To Use Brackets, Parentheses, and Braces to Define Groups

Use parentheses ( ) to contain additional thoughts or qualifying remarks (I consider these to be my “verbal asides”).

Brackets [ ] are most often seen in technical notations or explanations.


  • “Dogs are better then [sic] cats,” said Shannon.   
  • Eva took [her colleague] Caitlin out to lunch.

Braces { } are used to contain two or more lines of text to show they are part of a unit. You don’t often see braces in writing, but you will see them used in computer programming.

Buyer Content Strategy Checklist

Punctuation Miscellany: Ellipses, Quotation Marks, and Apostrophes

Ellipses ( … ) are used to indicate an omission of unnecessary words (for more on this topic, see my previous post “And the Winner Is…”).

Quotation marks ( ” ” ) are used in pairs and mark the beginning and end of a quotation. They can also be used to indicate a “dubious” status of a word. A single quotation mark pair ( ‘ ‘ ) is to be used for quotes within a quote.

Apostrophes ( ‘ ) indicate possession (“That toy is Pip’s favorite”) or the omission of some letters from a word (“Austin Powers is also known as the int’l man of mystery”).

This infographic from EducatorsTechnology.com and almost all of the other source material I read in preparation for this series state that there are 14  different punctuation marks.

Where does that leave the simple underscore (_) or the various directions of the slash ( / or \ )? Are they relegated to web code and email addresses?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. And if you want more writing tips, download our Buyer 2.0 Content Strategy Checklist.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services with more than 20 years’ experience counseling brands on their content. Follow Cathy on Twitter @cathyspicer and tweet her your #grammargripes or email catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

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