The basic rules for using semi-colons, colons, and dashes are not nearly as difficult to understand as I thought they would be. I had always considered them confusing. The basic rules for these punctuation marks are covered here. If you would like a more in-depth study of the used of these, or any other punctuation marks, please check out the websites suggested at the end of the article.
Semi-colons are sometimes called super commas. They are used to connect complete sentences.
The kitchen needs a new floor, and the walls in the bathroom need to be painted.
The kitchen needs a new floor; the walls in the bathroom need to be painted.
If a phrase already contains commas, semi-colons are used for clarity.
The owner opened new branches of his jewelry store in Lexington, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; and Charleston, West Virginia.
A semi-colon also gives a sentence more clarity when it is used before introductory words (namely, however, therefore, e.g., or for instance) that introduce a complete sentence.
To make barbecue sauce, you will need many different ingredients; namely, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chili powder, and many other spices.
A colon is used after a complete sentence to introduce a list when there are no introductory words used.
To make barbecue sauce, you will need the following items: tomato sauce, tomato paste, chili powder, and many other spices.
A colon is used between 2 sentences instead of a semi-colon when the second sentence explains or illustrates the first sentence and there is no word used to connect the sentences.
Reading is one of my favorite pastimes: my shelves are full of books by Agatha Christie, Dorothy Cannell, and Frank Peretti.
When writing a business letter, use a colon after the salutation, even when addressing someone by name.
Dear Mr. Stamper:
A semi-colon is never to be used after the salutation. A comma is used after the greeting for personal letters.
Dashes are great to use when you wish to set off items that contain additional, though not essential, information
The great authors of the past - Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain - only had pen and paper to use when writing their great novels.
Use dashes to set off a short summary after a complete sentence.
There is one thing that will make a frustrating, trying day better -- chocolate.
Dashes are used between years and times.
With the dash added, the first sentence from A Tale of Two Cities is now completely punctuated.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way -- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
For a more in-depth study of punctuation marks, please visit the following websites: