Most Awesome Forms of Punctuation
Copyright © Laurel Osterkamp
- All Rights Reserved
rocks! It can impact writing in a way that mere words can never achieve.
Whether you’re using a comma, period, ellipses or a dash, nothing can
influence your writing more than correct and effective use of
punctuation. The entire meaning of a sentence can be completely altered
just by changing, leaving out, or adding in a little dash, dot or
example, if you were driving down a residential neighborhood and saw a
sign that read, “Slow! Children Playing” you would know to keep an eye
out for kids playing in the streets. However, without that exclamation
point, the sign would read, “Slow Children Playing”, and you would be
left wondering if the kids in this particular neighborhood are rather
dumb. This point leads to the fifth most awesome form of punctuation -
the exclamation point.
points are awesome because of their versatility and power. What other
form of punctuation can turn one word into a complete sentence? “Run.”
is not a complete sentence, it means nothing. However, “Run!” commands
the reader to move fast. With its addition we now know that either there
is danger, and we need to run away from it, or there is something really
cool that we need to run towards. Either way, it’s exciting.
excitement, what’s more exciting than an exclamation point? Adding one
to the end of any sentence implies intense emotion. For instance, “This
milk smells funny.” After reading that you’re probably thinking, “hmmm,
maybe I ought to smell that milk too?” But read “This milk smells
funny!” and you know there’s no way you’re smelling that milk. With an
exclamation point, sentences are yelled out rather than simply spoken.
most awesome form of punctuation is the quotation mark. One reason
they’re awesome is because they separate dialogue. What would we do
without them? Try making sense of this passage without the quotation
marks added in.
No, wait. She ran her fingers through his hair then touched them to his
lips. He gently kissed them. I love it when you do that. I love you. He
picked her up and carried her away.
like a pretty steamy scene, but who was saying what? See if it makes
more sense with the quotation marks added in:
No, wait.” She ran her fingers through his hair then touched them to his
lips. He gently kissed them. “I love it when you do that.”
love you.” He picked her up and carried her away.
Not only do
quotation marks let us know all the important info about dialogue, they
also do something that no other punctuation can – imply sarcasm. Put any
adjective or adverb in a regular sentence into quotation marks and
suddenly it takes on the opposite of its meaning. For example:
“competent”. I really respect how “good” she is at her job. She work is
always so “thorough”. “Definitely” hire her.
If you were
a boss and you received the above passage about a prospective employee,
would you hire her? I wouldn’t, even though in reality, only compliments
have been written. Aww, the power of quotation marks!
are awesome because they are so subtle and abstract. Few people actually
use them correctly, but if you do, you will add complexity to your
So what do
semicolons do? They attach two complete yet compatible sentences into
one. Think of the semicolon like a really healthy marriage. Two separate
entities are joining forces because they fit and are stronger together.
Another way to think of the semicolon is as a replacement for the word
“because.” Using a semicolon implies the word “because” without having
to state it. For example:
I love bananas; they taste so good and are high in
It’s hard to find a good boyfriend; all the decent
men have been taken.
I’d rather be playing hockey; baseball is boring and
I stink at track.
Do you see
how the semicolon replaces the word “because” in the above sentences?
Did you also notice how the semicolon joins together two separate yet
connected thoughts? No other punctuation can do what the semicolon can;
semicolons are so cool!
do you start speaking to someone, and then trail off before you finish
your thought? I do that all the time, and if I was writing out what I
was saying I would be using ellipses. Ellipses are awesome because they
finish your sentences for you, making incomplete sentences into complete
ones. What’s better than that? They also can be used as the antithesis
of exclamation points, indicating a lack of passion or conviction. Here
are some examples:
thought I wanted to marry him but I don’t know…
Sure, I guess I can help you move…
you’re feeling kind of fuzzy, just use ellipses. That’s what they’re
for the number one most awesome form of punctuation –
dashes. They are awesome - because you simply can’t go wrong with a
dash. It is pretty much impossible to use one incorrectly - they are so
handy. You can separate ideas and add effect - all at the same time. I
like to think of dashes as a dramatic pause - and use them as such. I
mean – there is just no form of punctuation more – awesome! Dashes –
you have it – the five “most awesome” forms of punctuation. My list was
obviously short, and some of you may think it should have included
commas, colons, question marks, or the ever popular period; you may have
a point. Just remember, my ideas about punctuation are subjective - but
how you use that punctuation is not! Happy writing…
the Author: Laurel is the author of Following My Toes, a
novel set in Minneapolis, where she is from. She also teaches high
school English and Creative Writing. You can visit her on the web at