A semicolon is like a marriage; it unites two independent ideas to create more complex meaning.

I am really looking forward to our blog assignment; I can’t wait to begin my weight-loss experiment! (Journal)


A colon is like an escalator; it invites you to go on.

There are several tools that are essential for a successful vegan challenge: the Vita-Mix blender, blender bottles, and a good chefs knife. (Favorites)

Em Dashes

An em dash seems to be a bit ADHD; it indicates a digression from the original idea.

I made tomatillo and black been tostadas for dinner—that no one liked except for me—and I topped them with fresh veggies from my garden. (Food Log)


Parentheses can be a bit like an annoying child; they often interrupt your main idea to add less relevant information.

Last week my husband asked me to turn the entire family vegan (a concept that filled me with both excitement and dread), but I am relieved to announce that this week he asked to be turned back! (Home Post)

Commas With Additional Clauses

She wasn’t heavy enough, so the chair folded her into itself like sandwich stuffing, and she watched from between her knees.

~from Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things

This quote is a good example of how commas can be used to separate dependent clauses from independent clauses. The clause inside the commas depends on the clause outside the commas to support it. If you remove the inside clause, the sentence is still strong.

I am gearing up to run the Salt Lake Marathon, one of the items on my bucket list, but I don’t want to run it alone. (Home Post)

Commas With Parenthetical Elements

Parenthetical commas can be likened to an aside or an afterthought.

I remember the first, and only, time he ever commented on my weight. (Memoir)

Commas With A Series

Commas can be used to replace the word “and” in a list. Semicolons are used in a list to group like items together.

When I begin training for the Salt Lake Marathon on Monday, I will need to purchase new shoes, new ear buds, and some upbeat running music.

I am 3 weeks into my vegan experience, and there are several things that have emerged as necessary for my success. They are: the Vitamix blender, a must have for green smoothies; my electric pressure cooker, it makes my beans as soft as butter; and a big bag of limes, used as a salt replacement. (Journal)

Commas With Quotation Marks

A comma used with quotation marks can be thought of like an MC handing the mic to a guest speaker. It signifies that someone else is talking.

I remember the first, and only, time he ever commented on my weight. We had only been married for a few months, and as I was changing into my pajamas my sweet husband innocently asked, “Honey, would you like to start exercising with me?” (Memoir)

Quotation Marks

Quotes within quotes can be compared to a child within it’s mother. The main quote is enclosed by double quotation marks, while the secondary quote within the main quote is enclosed by single quotation marks.

“In formulating any philosophy,” Woody Allen writes, “the first consideration must always be: What can we know? Descartes hinted at the problem when he wrote, ‘My mind can never know my body, although it has become quite friendly with my leg’” (Aaron, 2001, p. 249).

The mother/child analogy can also be used with placing quotations around a title within a larger title.

Chapter 3 of my text, Contemporary Nutrition, is titled “The Human Body: A Nutrition Perspective”.

Works Cited

Aaron, J. (2001) The Little Brown Compact Handbook. Boston: Addison Wesley Educational Publishers, Inc.


Apostrophes are like a bill of sale or a title. They indicate ownership.

Running the marathon was Jackie’s idea.


Ellipses are like spacers. They indicate that something is missing, and that they are holding its place.

In June, 2004, a reporter for the UC Berkley News, Sarah Yang, published an article titled “Nearly One-Third of the Calories in the US Diet Come From Junk Food….”  (Report)

(In this particular instance, what is missing is the rest of the title. I chose to leave it out of my article, because it was excessively lengthy.)


Brackets are a bit like prescription glasses. They clear up the meaning of a quote, just as prescription glasses clear up fuzzy vision.

“What is really alarming is the major contribution of ‘empty calories’ in the American [Western] diet” said Block. (Report)

Capital Letters

Capitalization in titles: Capitalize all words EXCEPT for articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. However, you DO capitalize even the exception if it is the first or last word of a title or subtitle.

The Health Consequences of the “Typical American Diet” (Report)

Capitalization of proper nouns: Capitalize all proper nouns, but not nouns used as labels. For example: You would capitalize the noun “mom” if you were using it as a name. However, you wouldn’t capitalize “mom” if you weren’t.

 In her “Let’s Move” initiative, created to combat the obesity crisis, First Lady Michelle Obama shares her own personal experiences of her struggle to teach healthy habits to her children. (Report)

This sentence illustrates both types of capitalization. The title “Let’s Move” is capitalized, as well as the title “First Lady” and proper noun “Michelle Obama”.

Italics and Underlining

Italics are like lipstick. They make things stand out!

Italicize the titles of published works, but not what’s inside those works. That’s where quotation marks come in.

“Nearly One-Third of the Calories in the US Diet Come From Junk Food . . . ”.

Underlining has fallen victim to the political correct movement. It is now only appropriate when you are writing by hand, or with a type writer. Today, if something is underlined on a computer generated document it indicates an internet link.

Italics are also appropriate when you want to place special emphasis on a word or group of words.

“High calorie, sugar laden processed foods coupled with our sedentary lifestyles is growing our waistlines and contributing to serious health issues like diabetes, heart ailments and cancers” (Food, Inc.). (Report)


A well used fragment is a bit like the word STOP. Short, sweet, and to the point; yet full of emphasis!

I USED TO BELIEVE if a product was labeled “Fat Free” or “Low Fat” it meant that you wouldn’t get fat if you ate it. Honestly. (Memoir)

Comma Splice

A comma splice indicates a closer relationship between two independent clauses than the semicolon does.

I LOVE visual aids, this one is particularly worth viewing! (Home Post)


Hyphens are often used to show the connection between words, but they can also be used to illustrate separation.

To change things up, I will also undertake week-long mini-challenges as I explore some of the more focused vegan diets such as the Raw Food Diet and the Green Smoothie Diet. (About Page)

En Dash

The en dash is bigger than a hyphen, and smaller than the em dash.
It is often used in place of the word “to”.

”During 1980–2008, obesity rates doubled for adults and tripled for children”(CDC, 2011). (Report)


There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to deciding whether to write out a number or use it’s numeral; however, there are several cases where specific rules apply.

– No matter which method you decide on, be consistent throughout your paper.

– If there is a number at the beginning a sentence, always write out.

– When a numbered item is next to another numbered item, use both forms to avoid confusion. ex.. Twenty-$100 dollar bills.

Did I mention my kids thought it was the best smoothie EVER? I had to make two blenders worth (128 oz) because they drank it so fast!! (Journal)


There are many rules for the proper use of abbreviations, but I chose to highlight the ones that I hadn’t heard before.

When initials are used as an abbbreviation that could be construed as a word, it is appropriate to put a period after each letter.

ex. (U.S.) Abbreviations where words have been shortened and end with a lowercase letter should be capped with a period.

ex. (appt.)

Here’s one that took me by surprise:

Abbreviations of shortened words are NOT to be used in the body of text in a paper. They should only be used in the parenthetical citations and works cited page.

ex. (well…actually, ex. works perfectly as an example!)

Works Cited:

Food, Inc. Prod. Robert Kenner. Perf. Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan. Magnolia Pictures, 2009. (Memoir)


2 responses »

  1. Laurie says:

    FUNNY! I am going to use this with my older tutoring students. They will get a kick out of it. You have been really creative with these examples….smarty pants!

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