§ 1. The punctuation marks show the grammatical relations between words, phrases, clauses, and sentences; besides they serve to emphasize particular words and to indicate intonation. Thus the use of punctuation marks is mainly regulated by syntactical relations: the structure of the sentence (simple, compound, complex), the function of the word or word-group in a sentence or clause, the way coordinate clauses are linked, and the types of subordinate clauses.
The Simple Sentence
To separate different parts of the sentence, the following rules are observed.
§ 2. With homogeneous members either a comma or no punctuation mark whatever is used.
1. A comma is used to separate homogeneous members joined asyndetically.
The punishment cell was a dark, damp, filthy hole. (Voynich)
She shook her head, dried the dishes herself, sat down with some mending. (Cronin)
Her breathing was slow, tortured. (Maltz)
2. A comma is used after each of several homogeneous members if the last is joined by the conjunction and.
The captain, the squire, and I were talking matters over in the cabin. (Stevenson)
He lighted his cigarette, said good night, and went on. (London)
Note. The comma before the last of the homogeneous members can be omitted.
3. If two homogeneous members are joined by the conjunction and, no comma is used.
She nodded and smiled. (Heym)
He went out heavily and shut the door behind him. (Abrahams)
4. If there are several homogeneous members and each of them is joined to the preceding by the conjunction and or nor, they may or may not be separated by commas.
Em'ly, indeed, said little all the evening; but she looked, and listened, and her face got animated, and she was charming. (Dickens)
She was not brilliant, nor witty, nor wise overmuch, nor extraordinary handsome. (Thackeray)
5. A comma is used to separate homogeneous members joined by the conjunction but and the correlative conjunction not only... but also.
He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. (O. Henry)
Not only hope, but confidence has been restored. (Nesfield)
6. A comma is used to separate homogeneous members going in pairs.
Between halts and stumbles, jerks and lurches, locomotion had at times seemed impossible. (London)
They had forgotten time and place, and life and death. (Voy- nich)
§ 3. With detached members of the sentence either a comma or a dash is used.
1. To separate a loose apposition a comma or a dash is used. The latter is less common.
He, Martin Eden, was a better man than that fellow. (London)
The old gentleman, her father, was always dabbling in speculation. (Thackeray)
To think that Johnnie — my best friend — should have acted so meanly. (Bennett)
2. To separate all types of detached adverbial modifiers a comma is used.
The Chuzzlewit family was, in the very earliest times, closely connected with agricultural interest. (Dickens) It being then just dinner-time, we went first into the great kitchen. (Dickens)
Away went George, his nerves quivering with excitement at the news so long looked for. (Thackeray)
Mr. Micawber sat in his elbow-chair, with his eyebrows raised. (Dickens)
Old Jolyon had risen, and, cigar in mouth, went to inspect the group. (Galsworthy)
He drew his hands away, shivering. (Voynich)
Poor Jemima trotted off, exceedingly flurried and nervous. (Thackeray)
The people, seeing my empty carriage, would rush for it. (Jerome)
3. To separate detached attributes a comma is used.
There are some truths, cold, bitter, tainting truths. (Dickens)
Here we have a remark, at once consistent, clear, natural. (Dickens)
4. To separate detached objects a comma is used.
Maggie, with a large book on her lap, shook her heavy hair. (Eliot)
But instead of the print, he seemed to see his wife. (Galsworthy)
Sometimes a dash is used.
§ 4. To separate parenthetical words, groups of words, and clauses a comma, a dash, or brackets may be used. The comma is the most usual.
To occupy her mind, however, she took the jobs given her. (Galsworthy)
In fact, she marked the change in his face with satisfaction. (London)
As for my mother, both her brothers were policemen. (Lindsay)
She sang a foolish song of Gustave Charpentier's — a song born dead — and she sang it sentimentally. (Bennett)
To the hired butler (for Roger only kept maids) she spoke about the wine. (Galsworthy)
§ 5. To separate interjections a comma or an exclamation mark may be used.
Oh, Doreen didn't know anything about it. (Cusack)
Ah! That's the way to make the money. (Cusack)
§ 6. To separate direct address a comma is used.
Arthur, have you thought what you are saying? (Voynich)
And run in to see me, my lad, when you have time any evening.(Voynich)
Note.lt should be borne in mind that a comma (or a colon) and not an exclamation mark is used in salutation in letters.
My dear Jon, we have been here now a fortnight. (Galsworthy)
The Compound Sentence
To separate coordinate clauses the following rules on the use of punctuation marks are observed.
§ 7. Coordinate clauses joined asyndetically are always separated by a punctuation mark.
The most usual punctuation mark is the semicolon.
Arthur looked at his watch; it was nine o'clock. (Voynich)
The policeman took no notice of them; his feet were planted apart on the strip of crimson carpet stretched across the pavement; his face, under the helmet, wore the same stolid, watching look as theirs. (Galsworthy)
A colon or a dash may be used when the second coordinate clause serves to explain the first. They serve to express the relations which a conjunction would express.
Breakfast over, Aunt Polly had family worship: it began with a prayer built from the ground up of solid courses of scriptural quotations. (Twain)
Ellsworth advised a triangular piano — the square shapes were so inexpressibly wearisome to the initiated. (Dreiser)
A comma is used to separate coordinate clauses when the connection between them is very close.
A fly settled on his hair, his breathing sounded heavy in the drowsy silence, his upper lip under the white moustache puffed in and out. (Galsworthy)
§ 8. Coordinate clauses joined by copulative conjunctions.
Clauses joined by the conjunction and may be separated by a comma (if the connection between the clauses is close) or a semicolon (if the clauses are more independent). Occasionally a dash is used.
... a library was a most likely place for her, and he might see her there. (London)
He wondered what boat it was, and why she did not stop at the wharf — and then he dropped her out of his mind and put his attention upon his business. (Twain)
Coordinate clauses joined by the conjunctions neither; nor are generally separated by a semicolon.
Martin did not laugh; nor did he grit his teeth in anger. (London)
She would not listen, therefore, to her daughter's proposal of being carried home; neither did the apothecary, who arrived about the same time, think it necessary. (Austen)
Occasionally a comma is found.
He could not bring them back, nor could he go back to them. (London)
But you can't get at him, neither can we. (Dickens)
Clauses joined by the conjunctive adverbs moreover; besides, then are usually separated by a semicolon.
He seemed to have no desire to go; besides his clothes were not good enough. (Cronin)
It was the custom of that youth on Saturdays, to roll up his shirt sleeves to his shoulders, and pervade all parts of the house in an apron of coarse green baize; moreover, he was more strongly tempted on Saturdays than on other days. (Dickens)
§ 9. Coordinate clauses joined by disjunctive conjunctions are usually separated by a comma. A dash may also be used.
The whole world had come alive again, was going as fast as we were, or rather we were going no faster than the rest of the world. (Wells)
Either his going had been again delayed, or he had yet procured no opportunity of seeing Miss Crawford alone, or he was too happy for letter-writing. (Austen)
Occasionally a semicolon or a dash is found before the conjunction or.
But to live in ignorance on such a point was impossible; or, at least, it was impossible not to try for information. (Austen)
She was disappointed — or did it only seem to him? (Wells)
§10. Coordinate clauses joined by adversative conjunctions.
Clauses joined by the conjunctions but and while are separated by a comma or a semicolon. A dash may also be found.
He still smoked, but he drank no more. (London)
Tom was a Whig, while Esmond was a Tory. (Thackeray)
Her own limits were the limits of her horizon; but limited minds can recognize limitation only in others. (London)
He was driven out into the cold world, he must submit — but he forgave them. (Twain)
Clauses joined by the conjunctive adverbs whereas, still as a rule are separated by a semicolon. A comma is used but seldom.
It gave him exquisite delight to watch every movement and play of those lips as they enunciated the words she spoke; yet they were not ordinary lips such as all men and women had. (London)
Upon the other step was Mr. Jonas; whereas the youngest gentleman was deep in the booking-office among the black and red plackards. (Dickens)
§11. Clauses joined by causative-consecutive conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs are as a rule separated by a comma or a semicolon.
"Who?" asked Clyde, pretending an innocence he could not physically verify, for his cheeks and forehead flushed. (Dreiser)
Don't approach me; for I hate you beyond measure. (Bennett)
Clauses joined by the conjunction so are separated by a comma.
It was clear that something had happened, so we eased up. (Jerome)
Occasionally we find a dash or a colon before the conjunctions for and so.
Aunt Polly asked him questions — for she wanted to trap him into damaging revealments. (Twain)
Becky was gone to her Constantinople home to stay with her parents during vacations — so there was no bright side to life anywhere. (Twain)
There is an increasing tendency to discard the comma between coordinate clauses, but it is still desirable before but and obligatory before for; while, whilst, whereas, only.
§ 12. As has been stated in Chapter XVII, § 6, a sentence containing direct speech consists of two independent clauses.
Direct speech is given in quotation marks. The clause containing direct speech is separated from the other coordinate clause, which introduces the direct speech, by a comma.
The lady said to her friend, "Why, Rawdon, it's Captain Dobbin." (Thackeray)
"Come in and have your milk," he said. (Galsworthy)
A colon is also possible.
Bosinney replied coolly: "The work is a remarkable one." (Galsworthy)
'June's not here," said his father hastily: "went off to-day on a visit." (Galsworthy)
If the clause containing direct speech is interrogative or exclamatory, a note of interrogation or a note of exclamation is used; the clause is not separated from the other clause by a stop, if the clause containing direct speech precedes the other. If it follows the other clause, a comma or a semicolon is used.
"Where do you get your things?" he said in an aggravated voice. (Galsworthy)
"I'd no idea it was so good!" he said. (Galsworthy)
She sank down by his side and cried: "Oh, Phil! it's all so horrid!" (Galsworthy)
Then Soames asked: "When do you expect to have finished?" (Galsworthy)
The Complex Sentence
To separate subordinate clauses from the principal clause the following rules on the use of commas are observed.
§ 13. Subject clauses as a rule are not separated from the principal clause by any comma.
What he learned of farming in that week might have been balanced on the point of a penknife and puffed off. (Galsworthy)
However, a comma is found if the subject clause is of some length and if a subordinate clause is attached to it.
What had saved him from becoming a cross between a lap dog and a little prig, had been his father's adoration of his mother. (Galsworthy)
§ 14. Predicative clauses as a rule are not separated from the principal clause by any comma. A comma is often used when they are joined asyndetically.
Ruth's point of view was that he was doing no more than was right. (London)
My opinion is, she'd come to me. (Weyman)
§15. Object clauses are not separated from the principal clause by a comma. If the object clause precedes the principal clause, a comma may or may not be used.
The silence was so long and deep that he looked up wondering why the Padre did not speak. (Voynich)
... and what Browning had done for her, Martin decided he could do for Ruth. (London)
§ 16. Attributive clauses.
1. Restrictive relative attributive clauses are not separated from the principal clause by commas.
You may be sure every smuggler in the Apennines will do for a man who was in the Savigno revolt what he will not do for us. (Voynich)
2. Non-restrictive relative attributive clauses are as a rule separated from the principal clause by a comma.
Tom presented himself before Aunt Polly, who was sitting by an open window. (Twain)
I turned hastily round, and found at my elbow a pretty little girl, who begged to be directed to a certain street at a considerable distance. (Dickens)
3. Continuative attributive clauses are always separated from the principal clause by a comma.
Oliver was frightened at the sight of so many gentlemen, which made him tremble: and the beadle gave him another tap behind, which made him cry. (Dickens)
4. Appositive attributive clauses, are never separated from the principal clause by a punctuation mark.
The thought that his adored daughter should learn of that old scandal hurt his pride too much. (Galsworthy)
She paused with an uneasy sense that instead of defending Kath she was providing ammunition against her. (Lindsay)
1. When an adverbial clause follows the principal clause, no comma is generally used. When it precedes the principal clause, it is separated from it by a comma.
The solicitor addressed me as he descended the stair. (Ch. Bronte)
He sank into a silence so profound that Aunt Hester began to be afraid he had fallen into a trance. (Galsworthy)
He drew the blanket over his head that he might not hear. (Voynich)
When Phyl called to see how Pearl was getting on, she found her still curled up sulkily in her arm-chair. (Lindsay)
Though I had now extinguished my candle and was laid down in bed, I could not sleep. (Ch. Bronte)
If any shareholder has any question to put, I shall be glad to answer it. (Galsworthy)
2. An adverbial clause of result coming after the principal clause, which is usually the case, is often separated by a comma.
The thicket was as close as a brush; the ground very treacherous, so that we often sank in the most terrifying manner. (Stevenson)
§ 18. If in a complex sentence there are two or more homogeneous clauses, they are separated from each other by a comma.
When dusk actually closed, and when Adele left me to go and play in the nursery with Sophie, I did not keenly desire it. (Ch. ВгоШё)
§ 19. At the end of every kind of declarative non-exclamatory sentence — simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex — a full stop is used.
Young Jolyon poured out the tea. (Galsworthy)
All the life and expression had gone out of his face; it was like a waxen mask. (Voynich)
They turned back towards the bridge over which the Cardinal's carriage would have to pass. (Voynich)
§ 20. At the end of a sentence expressing a question, real or rhetorical, a question mark is used.
Do you recognize that letter? (Voynich)
Is this a dagger that I see before me? (Shakespeare)
A question mark is used at the end of sentences containing questions even if the order of words is that of an affirmative sentence.
And he wants you to live on cocoa too? (Galsworthy)
You deny that it is in your writing? (Voynich)
§ 21. At the end of exclamatory sentences an exclamation mark is used.
It's a lie! (Voynich)
What a beautiful voice that man has! (Voynich)
§ 22. To indicate a sudden stop in the thought a dash or two dashes are used.
Oh! how I wish — But what is the use of wishing? (Fowler)
"Oh, well," he said, "it's such a long time since__ __" He faltered.
He stopped. (Mansfield)
It should be noted that the use of most stops largely depends on the will of the writer.