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Part V: APPENDIX > Punctuation Update

Appendix. Punctuation Update

Punctuate for your reader’s eye. Use punctuation creatively to subordinate less important information so your reader can skim.

  1. Parentheses and colons can be used to visually break up strings of difficultto-read commas and semicolons. Consider the difference punctuation makes in the following examples.

    Awkward: The regional sales managers who attended the conference were Alice Martin, North; Bob Gomez, South; Bruce Graham, East; and Ivy Chiu, West.
    Easier: Several regional sales managers attended the conference: Alice Martin (North); Bob Gomez (South); Bruce Graham (East); and Ivy Chiu (West).
    Awkward: Three sections of the report were of interest to me, particularly the discussion of next quarter’s projected sales at the beginning of Section II, the outline of the new advertising campaign in Europe in Section III, and the plans for enlarging our laboratory facilities in Canada at the end of Section IV.
    Easier: I found three sections of the report of special interest: the discussion of next quarter’s projected sales; the outline of the new European advertising campaign; and the plans for enlarging our lab facilities in Canada.


  2. Use dashes to make important or dramatic information stand out.

    Ho-Hum: Jane Metcalfe is taking an extended leave because she is going to run for mayor.
    Impactful: Jane Metcalfe is taking an extended leave of absence—she’s going to run for mayor!
    Ho-Hum: I am of the opinion that this merger is the correct move at this point in time.
    Impactful: I think—no, I am positive!—this merger is the right move at the right time.


  3. Avoid run-on sentences; they confuse readers. The most common punctuation mistake in business writing is run-on sentences with therefore, meanwhile, nevertheless, however, and other conjunctive adverbs.

    When a run-on sentence is caused by putting two separate thoughts together, you can simplify it by correct use of punctuation—either using a semicolon or inserting a period to create two sentences. In the following examples, the two separate thoughts are underlined.

    We no longer have that item in stock, therefore we are returning your check.

    This can be solved in two ways—either by making two sentences (A) or by using a semicolon (B):

    1. We no longer have that item in stock. Therefore, we are returning your check.

    2. We no longer have that item in stock; therefore, we are returning your check.


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