1. Use a period at the end of a statement or a polite request.
•Jean went to Europe last summer. (statement)
•Let me use your new book. (request)
2. Use a period after initials and abbreviations.
•Geo. F. Smith
3. Use a period between the integral and decimal parts of a mixed fraction and between
figures indicating dollars and cents.
•The lake is 62.35 miles long.
•With the discount, it will cost $14.22.
4. Use a question mark after question.
•Have you seen my new hat?
5. Use an exclamation point after words, expressions, or sentences that show strong
•Fire! Fire!
•How terrible it was!
•Did he say
6. Use a comma between two sentences joined by and, or, nor, but, for, yet, so.
•Robert entered the race, but he did not win.
•Robert was happy, or so he seemed.
7a. Use commas to separate items of a series.
•The farmer sold corn, hay, oats, potatoes, and wheat.
•They came from the east, from the west, from the north, and
from the south.
•He arose, he smiled, he began to speak.
7b. Use a comma between two adjectives that can be interchanged in order.
•The yard was full of romping, running children.
7c. Use a comma between adjectives which follow the noun.
•This taste for things, new and unexplored, led me to travel
often and far.
8. Use commas to set off words of direct address.
•Mother, aren't you ready yet?
•I'm coming now, Terri.
•I said, sweetie, that you are too slow.
9. Use a comma to set off introductory elements.
a. Words such as yes, no, well, however.
•Yes, you may go.
•Well, I'll tell you.
b. Participial phrases, infinitive phrases, long prepositional phrases.
•Screaming for help, the girl wrestled with a raging bear.
•Pulled from the girl, the bear snarled angrily.
•To awaken Jack, mother frequently used a pitcher of ice
•On the first day of May last year, we had our big parade.
c. Adverb clauses. (When, if, because, as).
•When he comes home, we will eat dinner.
•Because he was late, we missed the first act.
10. Use commas to set off parenthetical constructions.
a. Parts of addresses.
•922 Marvelle Way, San Francisco California 94127
•He lives in Modesto, California
•He lives in Modesto. He lives in California
b. Parts of dates.
•March 21,1972, was the date of his inauguration.
•He was born in April, 1922. He was born in April.
11. Use commas to set off the explainers of the direct quotation.
•The girl said, "Wait for me."
•"Wait for me," the girl said.
•"Wait," the girl said, "until I arrive."
12. Use commas to set off non-restrictive elements.
a. Appositives
•John, my eldest brother, is coming home.
b. Participial phrases
•John, wishing he were at home, sighed deeply.
•Koko, taken from a county jail, was made Lord High
c. Adjective clauses
•Margaret, who is wearing a red dress, was elected president.
•Your math book, which is on the table, needs a new cover.
d. Adverb clauses—on rare occasions only.
13. Use a comma to prevent misreading.
•Ever since, Frank has been a better boy.
•You would, would you?
14. Use a comma after the salutation of a friendly letter and after the complimentary
close of both the friendly letter and a business letter.
•Dear Mr. Jamison,
•Sincerely yours,
•Dear John,
(friendly + business)
15. Use commas to separate absolute phrases.
•The job being done, we left as soon as possible.
16. Do not use unnecessary commas.
21. Use semicolons between sentences not joined by a word listed in Rule 6.
•The rain came in torrents; we did not know what to do.
22. Use semicolons between two sentences joined by however, nevertheless, hence,
moreover, thus, and such words.
•The day was very cold; therefore we did not go for a ride.
•The seat was most uncomfortable; however, Christine made
no effort to move.
23. Use semicolons to separate equal structures that contain commas.
•John arrived last night, I am told; but because his plane was late, he could not
come to the party.
•We invited Don Webb, the captain of the team; Sue Mills, the president of our
class; and Joe Wynn, the chairman of our group.
24. Use a colon to introduce a list, especially with as follows or the following.
•He bought the following fruits: apples, peaches, pears.
25. Use a colon between a statement and its explanation.
•Our firm has fixed policy: we will not be undersold.
26. Use a colon to introduce a long, formal quotation.
•Article VIII of the Constitution states: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor
excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
27. Use a colon after the salutation of a business letter.
•Dear Sir:
•Dear Dr. Merriwether:
28. Use a colon between the hour and minutes, the act and the scene of a play, the title of
a book and the subtitle.
•8 :30:
•Hamlet 1:2
•Principles of Geology:
•A College
Textbook :
29. Use parentheses to enclose explanatory or supplementary material having only an
indirect connection with thesentence proper.
•The decline in exports in the past two years has been
considerable (see graph on p. 219).
•If you come to see me (and I hope you do come), be sure to
bring your camera.
30. Use dashes to set off emphatic parenthetical material.
•We have a democratic student government—of course, we don't make all the
rules—that gives us a voice in affairs.
31. Use a dash between a statement and its explanation to secure emphasis.
•There is just one thing to do—run !
32. Enclose a direct quotation with quotation marks.
•"Wait for me," she cried.
33. Put quotation marks around titles of chapters, of newspaper and magazine articles, of
short poems, of short stories.
•"To Celia" (poem)
•"Punctuation" (chapter of book)
34. Use quotation marks to set off a definition.
•The expression to aggravate means "to make worse."
35. Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons
never go inside quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points go inside
only if they belong to the quoted material.
36. Underline titles of books and periodicals; names of ships, trains, airplanes, and
paintings; words used as words; letters used as letters.
•Dot your i's and cross your t's. (Letters used as letters)
•For Whom The Bell Tolls (novel)
•Macbeth (play)
•Mona Lisa (painting)
•San Francisco Chronicle (paper)
•The California Zephyr (train)
•To aggravate means "to make worse." (words used as
37. Use the apostrophe to indicate the omission of letters from words.
38. Use the apostrophe with s to denote plurals of letters, figures, signs, symbols, and
words considered merely as words.
•She used two a's, three b's, two 8's, and two and's.
39. Use the apostrophe to form the possessive of nouns and indefinite pronouns.
a. Use an apostrophe and s to form the possessive of a noun not ending in s.
b. Use an apostrophe alone to form the possessive of a plural noun ending in s.
c. Use the apostrophe alone, or the apostrophe with s, to form the possessive of
singular nouns ending in s.
•Keats' or Keat's
•Burns' or Burn's
40. Use hyphens when spelling compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
41. When it is necessary to divide a word at the end of a line, the division must be made
between syllables, and a hyphen must be placed at the end of the line. Never place a
hyphen at the beginning of a line.
42. Always check the dictionary for the correct syllabication and hyphenation of English
43. Dates, street numbers, page numbers, decimals, and percents should be written in
44. The general rule for writing numbers is to spell out the number if it may be done with
two or three words;
otherwise, it should be written in figures.
•He gave me one thousand dollars.
•He gave me 1,397 copies of the paper.
45. When several numbers such as statistics are mentioned within a short space of text,
use figures for all, particularly in technical, mathematical, and business writing.
46. A number which represents a person's age or one denoting the hour of the day is
usually spelled out.
•At three o'clock there is to be a meeting of the boys who are between sixteen and
eighteen years of age.
51. Every sentence should begin with a capital letter.
52. In traditional poetry, every line begins with a capital letter.
53. The first word of a direct quotation in reported speech begins with a capital.
54. Every proper noun and every adjective derived from a proper noun should be
•Boston, Bostonian
•Spain, Spaniard
Johnson, Johnsonian
55. The names of the days of the week, special holidays, and the names of the months
are capitalized.
56. Names of particular associations and proper names resulting from membership in
these associations are capitalized.
•Republican Party, Republican
Party, Democrat
•Garden Club
•Methodist Church,
57. Classes, schools, and colleges are capitalized when they refer to the particular.
•The Junior Class of Foothill High School invited Miss
Smith to speak.
58. Abbreviations of degrees and organizations are capitalized.
•A.B., •M.D., •A.A.A., •A.C.S., •B.C., •A.D., •R.R., •U.S.A.
59. Important historical events, documents, buildings, and monuments should be
•Battle of Hastings, •World War II, •Declaration of Independence, •White House,
•Lincoln Memorial
60. The words east, west, north, and south are capitalized when they mean particular
sections of a country, but they are not capitalized when they mean direction.
•He came from the South. (a section of a country)
•He went south from town. (a direction)
61. The names of deities, religions, sacred documents are capitalized.
62. Nouns and personal pronouns referring to God or to Christ are capitalized.
63. Names for the Bible and its parts and books begin with capital letters.
64. The first, last, and important words in titles of books, literary articles, pictures,
musical compositions, chapters of books, poems, plays, stories, newspapers, and
magazines begin with capitals. Function words are usually not capitalized unless they
begin the title or unless they are longer than four letters.
65. The pronoun I is always capitalized.
66. The initials of a person's name are capitalized.
67. Titles used with proper names are capitalized.
68. When in doubt, consult a dictionary.
69. Do not capitalize unnecessarily.
101. The subject and verb of a sentence must agree in person and number.
102. Words that are joined to a subject by with, accompanied by, together with, as well
as, no less than, or including do not change the number of the subject.
•The teacher, as well as the students, was there.
•The students, as well as the teacher, were there.
103. Two or more singular subjects joined by or or nor require a singular verb.
•Neither Esther nor Ruth was present.
104. When a subject is composed of both singular and plural forms joined by or or nor,
the verb must agree with the nearer subject.
•Neither he nor the boys play golf.
•Two other boys or Henry is to blame.
105. In a sentence beginning with here or there, the number of the verb is determined by
the number of the substantive following it.
•There is a book on the table.
•Here are Bob and Sue.
106. A collective noun takes a singular verb when the group is considered as a unit and
takes a plural verb when the individuals are considered.
•Our football team is popular.
•The team have received their sweaters.
107. In expressions such as one of the girls who, one of the trees which, and one of the
persons that, the verb in the relative clause agrees with the antecedent of the relative
•She is one of those teachers who is inspiring. (The
antecedent of "who" is "teachers.")
•She is the only one of the group who understands. (The
antecedent of "that" is "one.")
108. Each, either, neither, someone, somebody, anyone, anybody, everybody, everyone,
no one, nobody, one, and a person are singular.
•Each of the students was (not were) questioned.
•Everyone opened his (not their) book and was (not were)
109. If plenty, abundance, or rest is specified by a phrase introduced by of, the verb
agrees with the noun in the phrase.
•Plenty of potatoes are grown in Colorado.
•An abundance of meat was provided.
•One third of the paper was sold.
•One fifth of the boats were lost.
110. If the word number is preceded by a and followed by of, it takes a plural verb; if
it is preceded by the, it requires a singular verb.
•A number of men were hurt.
•The number of accidents is great.
111. A noun that refers to an amount of money, a space of time, or a unit or
measurement is singular in meaning even though the form is plural.
•Fifty cents is the price.
•Ten miles is a long way to walk.
112. A phrase between the subject and the verb does not affect the verb.
•One of the girls is my friend.
113. If the subject of the verb is made up of two or more words joined by and, the verb is
•Helen and Grace are here.
114. A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in gender, person, and number.
115. A sentence may be faulty because a pronoun is placed where it may refer to more
than one word. There should be no uncertainty as to what word is the antecedent of a
116. You, your, yours, are personal pronouns and cannot be used impersonally.
117. A pronoun must be singular when it refers to a noun modified by such indefinite
adjectives as each, every, and neither.
•Each boy bought his ticket.
•Every girl brought her books.
118. They should not be used with indefinite reference.
•People (not They) say that he is talented.
119. Avoid needless shifts if one (not you) would succeed.
120. Avoid needless shifts in number.
•One should do one's (not their) duty.
121. Do not shift illogically from the active voice to the passive in the same sentence.
•As we came over the hill, we saw a deer. (Not a deer was
122. Use the active voice unless there is some self-evident reason for using the passive.
123. In expressing a wish or a condition contrary to fact, use were, not was.
•If I were he, I'd go home.
•I wish he were the governor.
124. Do not split an infinitive.
•Awkward: She told me to not help him.
Better: She told me not to help him.
125. Avoid needless shifts in tense.
•The hunter went into the woods, and there he saw (not sees)
a deer.
126. Unrelated ideas should not be placed in the same sentence.
•Disconnected: Fred won the race, and he likes ice cream.
127. Do not run sentences together without punctuation.
•Incorrect: We rambled through the woods all day we did
not reach home until late.
Correct: We rambled through the woods all day. We did not
reach home until late.
128. Two independent clauses (sentences) not joined by a conjunction should not be
separated by a comma unless they make up a series. They should be separated by a
semicolon or written as two sentences.
•Incorrect: We spent the summer in Colorado, we had a
good time.
Correct: We spent the summer in Colorado, and we had a
good time.
Correct: We spent the summer in Colorado; we had a good
Correct: We spent the summer in Colorado. We had a good
129. Do not write fragments as sentences.
•Incorrect: We returned home. Hoping to have another
picnic soon.
Correct: We returned home, hoping to have another picnic
•Incorrect: They liked all kinds of games. Especially
Correct: They liked all kinds of games, especially football.
•Incorrect: We had a good time. When we were in
Correct: We had a good time when we were in Colorado.
•Incorrect: Because I'm a senior and graduating. I should be
allowed to do this.
Correct: Because I'm a senior and graduating, I should be
allowed to do this.
130. It sounds childish to join many sentences by and as if all the ideas were of equal
•Childish: We finished our work, and we went fishing, and
we had a good time.
•Better: After we had finished our work, we went fishing
and had a good time.
131. Avoid writing monotonous short sentences like those in a primer.
•Childish: We went to town. We stayed all day. We came
home. We were tired.
•Better: After we had spent the day in town, we came home
132. Parallel thoughts should be expressed in terms that are grammatically parallel.
•Faulty: Swimming is more enjoyable than to row.
Better: Swimming is more enjoyable than rowing.
Better: To swim is more enjoyable than to row.
133. Modifiers should not be left dangling (with nothing to modify).
•Faulty: Walking down the street, the beautiful building was
admired. (The building did the walking.)
Clear: Walking down the street, we admired the beautiful
134. Modifiers, whether they are words, phrases, or clauses—should be so placed that
their meaning is immediately clear to the reader.
•Confusing: She almost spent a hundred dollars.
Clear: She spent almost a hundred dollars.
•Confusing: We saw a man on a horse with a wooden leg.
Clear: We saw a man with a wooden leg on a horse.
135. Avoid the careless repetition of words.
•Monotonous: Autumn is the most enjoyable time of the
year, for it is in autumn that the weather is most enjoyable.
•Better: Autumn is the most enjoyable time of the year, for
it is the season when the weather is most pleasant.
136. A sentence may lose some of its effectiveness through wordiness—lack of economy
in the use of words.
•Wordy: He spoke in a very enthusiastic manner to the boys
and girls of the high school about the wonderful
opportunities of the future which lay ahead of them.
Concise: He spoke with enthusiasm to the high school
students about the opportunities of the future.
Joe, he works fast.
This here book is good.
Better: Joe works fast.
This book is
•Tautological: She is a widow woman.
It is an ancient, old castle.
Better: She is a widow.
It is an
ancient castle.
137. A sentence may lose in strength because of artificial expression.
•Artificial: A vast concourse of those amicably inclined
toward him assembled to do him honor on his natal day.
Natural: Many of his friends came to celebrate his
138. Do not abbreviate.
221. In using relative pronouns, who is generally used to refer to persons; which to
animals and things; and that to either persons, animals, places, or things.
•This is the man who helped us.
•The dog, which is a faithful animal, is loved by man.
•He spoke of the men and the ships that were lost.
222. A person or relative pronoun used as a subject or predicate nominative must be in
nominative case form (I, he, she, we, they, who).
•It is I.
223. A person or relative pronoun used as any kind of object must be in objective case
form (me, him, her, us, them, whom).
•Jack hit him.
224. Possessive forms of the pronoun omit apostrophes (my, mine; your, yours; his;
her, hers, its; our, ours; their, theirs).
239. Avoid using coordinators as transitions. Particularly avoid beginning a sentence
with and, but, for, so.
240. Avoid beginning sentences with then.
241. Avoid beginning a sentence with there.
242. Never put of after would. Always use have.