Punctuation - Graduate Writing Center

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GWC - punctuation mastery - main content

Punctuation


While the semicolon can seem mysterious and intimidating, punctuation use follows precise rules, and these rules can be learned!

Broadly speaking, punctuation marks are used to demarcate structural elements in a sentence; to signal what kind of utterance a sentence is expressing (declaration, question, exclamation); to create possessive constructions and contractions; and to indicate when someone is speaking or when a source is being quoted verbatim (as well as where a quotation has been modified). All of these functions combine to help the reader understand your meaning.

There’s no need to guess whether a comma, apostrophe, or other punctuation mark fits in a sentence, and learning to use these tools correctly gives you more confidence in your writing, removes guesswork for you and your readers, and increases your credibility as a clear and technically adept writer.

 

Punctuation Links

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All-Topics Index


The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the most relevant page for each item. We think we have all of them, but please email us at writingcenter@nps.edu if we're missing something!

A-Z content menu

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

abbreviations

abstracts

academic writing

acronyms

active voice

adjectives, compound

advisor, selecting and working with

apostrophes

appointment with GWC coaches, how to schedule

argument

article usage

assignments, understanding them

audience

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B

body paragraphs

brackets, square

brainstorming

building better sentences tips

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C

capitalization

citations

citation software

citation styles

clauses

clarity

clustering

coaching, about

coaching, how to schedule

colons

comma splices

commas, FANBOYS

commas, introductory

commas, list

commas, nonessential / nonrestrictive information

commas, Oxford

commas, serial

common knowledge

commonly confused words 

compare-and-contrast papers

compound adjectives / modifiers

concision

conclusions

conference presentations

conjunctive adverbs

coordinating conjunctions

copyright and fair use

critical thinking  

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D

dangling modifiers

dashes

dependent clauses

dependent marker words

display equations

distance learning

double submission of coursework

drafting

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E

editing your own work

editing: outside editors

em dash

en dash

exclamation points

executive summary

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F

FANBOYS

FAQs

first person, use of in academic writing

footnotes

fragments

free-writing

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G

gerunds

grammar

group writing

GWC appointment, how to schedule

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H

homophones

Honor Code, NPS

hyphens

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I

ibid.

incomplete sentences

independent clauses

introductions

iThenticate

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J

Joining the Academic Conversation

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L

LaTeX

library liaisons

lists, syntax of

literature reviews 

logic and analysis 

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M

making a GWC appointment

mathematics

memos

methodology

modifiers, compound

modifiers, misplaced

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N

nominalizations

note-taking

noun clusters

numbers

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O

organization

outlining

Oxford comma

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P

paragraph development 

parallelism

paraphrasing

parentheses

parts of speech

passive voice

periods

persuasion

phrases vs. clauses

plagiarism, how to avoid

plagiarism-detection software

plain language

polishing

prepositional phrases 

prepositions

pronouns, clarity with

pronouns, grammar of

publishing

punctuation

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Q

questions

quotation marks 

quoting

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R

Reading with Intent I

Reading with Intent II

redundancies                                                                

reference software

reflection papers 

research

research questions

restrictive vs. nonrestrictive information

reusing papers

reverse outlining

revision

roadmaps

run-on sentences 

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S

scheduling a GWC appointment

self-citing

semicolons

sentence fragments

serial comma

signal phrases

significance

so what?

source blending

sources, engaging with / critiquing

sources, evaluating the reliability of

sources, citing

spelling

standard essay structure

STEM / technical writing

Strategic Reading I

Strategic Reading II

style

subject–verb agreement

subjects, grammatical

subordinating conjunctions

summarizing

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T

technical writing

that vs. which

thesis writing

thesis advisor, selecting and working with

thesis process overview

thesis process tips

thesis proposals: common elements                                                     

thesis statements

this, that, these, those

tone, professional

topic sentences 

transitions

types of papers

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U

United States or U.S.?

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V

verbs and verb tense

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W

which vs. that

Why write?

writer’s block 

writing process

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Z

Zotero

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