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Writing Strategies and Grammar


  1.  Use a comma and one of the seven conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to combine two independent clauses to form a compound sentence. 
    • ​​​Example: Summer vacation was ending, but it seemed like it had only begun yesterday.
  2.  Use commas after words/dependent clauses that come before the main clause. 
    • Example: Because it was raining, I decided to sleep in.
  3. Use a pair of commas around words/phrases that provide additional description but can still be removed from the sentence without harming clarity. 
    • Example: Next week, which is the first day of summer, I’m going on vacation.
  4. Use commas between elements in lists or series of three or more items. 
    • Example: I saw monkeys, giraffes, and alligators at the zoo. 
  5. Use commas between multiple adjectives that describe the same noun unless adding “and” between the adjectives causes the sentence to stop making sense. 
    • Example: The heavy, bulky bookbag was hard to carry for very long.
  6. Use a comma towards the end of the sentence to pause before contrasting elements or modifying an earlier phrase.
    • Example: He wanted to have a small gathering, not a house party.
  7. Use commas for geographical names, dates, addresses, and titles in names.
    • Example: Orlando, Florida 
    • Example: Rosa W. Ortiz, MD
  8. Use a comma to shift in and out of quotation or dialogue. 
    • Example: In 1848, Marx wrote, “Workers of the world, unite!”


There are two main reasons to use a semi-colon in contemporary English:


  1.  Use a semicolon to connect two complete sentences.
    • ​​​Example: There were ample warnings of rip tide currents on the beach; however, Donald didn’t read the signs.
      • You could write the above example as two complete sentences separated by a period (also changing the lowercase “h” in however to H).
  2. Use a semi-colon in a list of items that already contains commas.
    • Example:  I have lived in Key West, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Savannah, Georgia; and Key West, Florida.



  1.  Use a colon after a complete sentence when specific information (which may or may not be able to “stand alone”) follows it for exemplification.
    • ​​​Example: Donald really only cares about one thing: impressing other people.
    • Example: Patricia cares about a few things: partying hard, hitting the beach, and having a good time.

One way to  tell if the colon is justified is by saying “Now I’m going to get more specific about what I just said” where the comma falls. If it makes sense, you’re probably in shape to use a colon.