Six Basic Punctuation Rules

Punctuation marks the structure of sentences, not the voice pauses or inflections. After you learn the basic structures of complex sentences, punctuating correctly becomes a matter of applying logical rules.
  1. A comma does three things: it sets off items in a list, it separates a main clause from its free modifiers, and (with a coordinate conjunction) it separates two main clauses. Get more explanation.

  2. A semicolon (;) is like a weak period: by itself it can separate two main clauses. It is also used to separate items in a list when the items themselves have internal punctuation. Get more explanation.

  3. A colon (:) appears at the end of a main clause and introduces a list, a restatement, or elaboration of the main clause. It is also used to introduce extended quotations. Get more explanation.

  4. A dash (--) is like a strong comma, but it cannot separate all the items in a list--only the last--and it cannot set off initial-position free modifiers. Get more explanation.

  5. A semicolon and a comma are used together when a conjunctive adverb separates two main clauses. Get more explanation.

  6. All punctuation must be parallel. Get more explanation.