The Grammar Guide

A basic guide to grammar and punctuation. A new chapter will be published every Sunday.


7. Glossary


Apostrophe: < ' > Is used to form contractions and signify possessives.

Brackets: < [ ] > Is used to give explanation within quotes.

Colon: < : > Signifies the end of an independent clause, and is followed by an explanation of said clause or a list.

Comma: < , > An immensely confusing punctuation mark which is used for all types of grammatical functions. These functions include: the separation of elements into a list; the joining of two clauses with a conjunction; the punctuation of dialogue; and much more.

Elipsis: < ... > Signifies omitted text within quotations, a pause in a sentence/dialogue, or trailing off in a sentence/dialogue. When writing, use elipses as sparingly as possible.

Em-dash: < — > Signifies a sudden break in dialogue, a sudden shift in tone, or a break in a sentence. According to The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, "A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses" (16). This punctuation mark can be substituted with two hyphens, but the real thing is preferable.

Exclamation mark: < ! > Signifies the end of an exclamation (can be an emphatic declaration, a command or an interjection).

Hyphen: < - > Is used to create compound words.

Parentheses: < ( ) > Is used to set off parenthetical text. Parenthetical text is anything that you would like to de-emphasize or would break the flow of the sentence, but you still want to include it. Parentheses can also be used to cite material.

Period: < . > Signifies the end of a sentence.

Question mark: < ? > Signifies the end of a question.

Semicolon: < ; > Is used to separate closely related independent clauses (independent clauses could be their own sentence) or to organize a list that would otherwise be confusing using commas.

Slash: < / > Is used to signify a choice between the two words it separates. In this way, it can be translated to the word, 'or'. A slash can also signify a line break in quoted poetry.  

Quotation Marks: < ' ' or " " > Quotation marks come in singles ( ' ' ) or doubles ( " " ). Certain countries (like Britain and Australia) use singles, while other countries (the US and Canada) use doubles. As per their name, quotation marks enclose quotations or dialogue.


General Grammar

Adjective: A word that describes a noun. E.g. Imaginary, written, childish, animalistic, correct, good.

Adverb: Like an adjective, except that it describes a verb instead of a noun. E.g. badly, well, correctly, childishly. 

Article: An article is a weak adjective that English speakers use. They are a, an, and the.

Clause: A grammatical unit made up of a noun and a predicate (a predicate describes the noun in some way. It could, for instance, be a verb).

Conjunction: Words such as and, if, but, and so which connect clauses or sentences. Conjunctions are also used within clauses to coordinate words.

Contraction: Contractions are shortened versions of words created by removing letters and replacing them with an apostrophe. Examples are: don't, shouldn't, can't, couldn't, wouldn't, it's, must've, and hadn't.

Dependent clause: A clause that depends on another clause to make sense. It does not work as a sentence on its own.

Independent clause: A clause that could work as a sentence on its own.

Interjection: Any word that doesn't fit grammatically into the sentence. It is something thrown in, such as a curse word, or any other kind of exclamation.

Intransitive verb: An intransitive verb has a subject, but no object. E.g. 'Sally walked to the store'. In this example, walked is an intransitive verb because it has a subject (Sally), but no object. It may seem that the store is the object, but it is an object of the preposition, to. If you're confused by this, just ask the question, 'What did Sally walk?'. Sally didn't walk anything, so there is no object. Say she was walking a dog, though. What did Sally walk? A dog. Now walk is a transitive verb.

Noun: A person, place, or thing. E.g. imagination, writing, kid, gorilla, grammar. Nouns can be plural and/or possessive.

Object: The thing upon which the subject acts, or thing which suffers the action of the verb.

Preposition: Words that show the relationship between words. For instance, the meaning of the sentence sentence, 'I looked at the store', changes if the preposition, at, is changed to from or from, all of which are prepositions.

Pronoun: A word that replaces a noun. The three types of pronouns are subject pronouns (she, he, they, it, etc.), object pronouns (her, him, them, it, etc.), and possessive pronouns (hers, his, theirs, its, etc.).

Proper Noun: The name of a person or a place, which is always capitalized. E.g. Sally, Appleville, Alaska.

Reflexive Pronoun: Reflexive pronouns are used when the object is the same thing as the subject. The nine reflexive pronouns are: myself, herself, himself, yourself, oneself, itself, ourselves, themselves and yourselves.

Subject: The topic of a sentence/verb.

Transitive verb: A transitive verb has a subject and an object. E.g. 'Sally ate the apple'. In this example, ate is a transitive verb because it has a subject (Sally) and an object (the apple).

Verb: An action word. E.g. to run, to write, to play, to be


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