Writing Essentials - Tips and Techniques

Utilise this movella to aid your writing needs from punctuation to correct verb usage! You will review important mechanics of writing in order to create sentences that express coherence and fervour. Each chapter in this movella will discuss various writing tools that have the ability to turn any piece of writing into a magnificent work of art.


6. Advanced Punctuation

In Chapter 1, I discussed the usages of punctuation. This chapter is a continuation of Chapter 1 with more unusual punctuation marks.


Semi-colon ;

A semi-colon is used similarly to a comma and a full stop; however, you will need to learn to use it sparingly. See what I did there?

The only time you should consider using a semi-colon instead of a comma or a period is when the following sentence carries the same context.

I went to my friend's birthday party; it was very boring.

Notice that the following sentence, "...it was very boring," has very little information. This is because the sentence "I went to my friend's birthday party" already provides enough information. If you were to make the sentence following the semi-colon into a separate sentence, it will need backup information.


Do NOT assume a complete sentence is paired with any other sentence. Each sentence should be able to stand alone with a solid subject and a verb. There should be no guessing to the sentence's overall theme. To help yourself know if a sentence is well explained, ask yourself, "What am I talking about?"


I ordered my meal at the restaurant; the employees never get it right.


I ordered my meal at the restaurant. The employees never get my order right.

Notice the pronoun is changed to what was discussed in the first sentence in the second example. This is because the context is the same in the second sentence; therefore, a semi-colon can be used.

Here is another example.

I rode my bicycle to the store. It broke when I arrived.

What broke? The store? The bicycle? Without proper use of the semi-colon, we would not know what broke. To know when sentences should be combined, try to imagine that only one sentence is visible as you read a paragraph. Do not disregard the context per se; you should instead use the context to create an overall theme, and then build upon the theme to make firm sentences.

Below is an example paragraph. Keep the question, "What am I talking about," in mind as you read.

Today was a wonderful day. The sky mixed creamy white clouds with the cyan atmosphere as the gentle winds wiggled the trees that traced along the promenade. I inspired slowly; my lungs yearned for the scent of the salty ocean that skimmed the resort across the street. The summer heat beamed down onto me; my clothing became an insulator, considering how thin the fabric was. The perspiration glued my trousers to my calves as I strode the crunching footpath adjacent to the sandy beach. This was a day I will never forget.

Again, bear in mind that a sentence cannot always remain the same when punctuation is edited; you may need to revise your sentence depending on the punctuation marks you use.


Colon :

A colon is very straightforward. It is commonly used to list relevance to a subject.

Please ensure you pack everything for the trip: toothbrush, deodorant and extra clothes.

As helpful as the colon may be, it is seldom used in essays and stories. Instead, you will find colons in brochures, advertisements, and other non-formal documents. If you ever want to use a colon in a formal essay, ensure that the sentence preceding the colon is a complete sentence.


Quotation ' ' " "

Quotation marks have very little versatility, but it all depends on the writer.

Use double quotation marks (" ") that indicates dialogue of speech.

"Hey! Where are you going," I shouted.

"Fine," muttered Derrick, "I guess I'll go."

You can also use double quotation marks (" ") to grab a piece of information from another source.

I didn't know about "the last time" you guys went.

The single quotation marks are used when a quotation is in a quotation.

"Well," said Don with a shrug, "I'm guessing she said something like, 'Let's hang out', or something."

What makes the quotation marks confusing is where they need to be placed. The usage of this punctuation mark varies from country to country, whether the quotation marks should be before or after the comma in a sentence.

"Well", said Don, "Where else can we go?"

Additionally, quotation marks can be used to create a noun out of the word surrounded by quotation marks.

I don't think "similar" is a good word for it. I believe "identical" is a better word.

This is the same when using single quotation marks, but like I said, this usage varies regionally.


Hyphen - 

Although very helpful when creating mass words, you should limit your use of hyphens because overusing this punctuation may confuse the reader. A hyphen is commonly used when two words act as one whole word, such as the grammatical term, complex-compound sentence. Many words that use hyphens often separate a prefix from the word, such as non-stop.

Informal writing uses hyphens frequently and can easily create sentences that induce humour.

Derrick was a not-too-good-looking lady's man.

Ashley always has the I'm-a-princess look plastered on her face.

It is best to avoid using hyphens altogether, unless it is used in proper nouns or anything specific.

Another useful tool to use with the hyphen is the comma substitution. This is known as an anacoluthon.

An anacoluthon is a structure of a sentence that is disrupted by a comma, or in this case, a hyphen.

Keep in mind that when using the hyphenated comma, it is double-tapped (--), or you can use (—).

I was gliding slowly through the thin sand—bystanders paid no attention to me.

I finally finished my homework--my dog was famished, though.

Note that when using an anacoluthon, the hyphenated comma, neither sentence correlates.

I baked a cake—I used ingredients to make it.

This is verbose and does not change the focus. The second sentence refers to the first, so this is not an anacoluthon. You should use the semi-colon to correctly structure this particular sentence.


Parentheses ( )

If you stay on topic in essays and stories, you should not be using parentheses. These interesting symbols are only used when creating off-topic remarks within your sentences.

My friend's novel was nominated at a banquet (he did not win). It was a lovely book.

It was a gloomy morning (I woke up before my alarm), so I did nothing but lie in bed until the afternoon.

Notice how the rest of the content outside the parentheses explains no more about the friend not winning the award; it was not important. With the second example, notice that the alarm has no significance with the subject, so it is surrounded with parentheses. If you simply stick to your topic of whatever you are writing about, you should not be using parentheses.


This chapter introduced a few more punctuation marks for you to indulge, but they all come with limits, so use them wisely!

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