Grammar 101 - Symbols

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Submitted: October 04, 2011

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Submitted: October 04, 2011



In this part of the grammar series, I will include: commas (,), semi-colons (;), period (.), ellipsis (…), dash-hyphen (– -) , “speech” symbols (“ ‘), apostrophe (‘) and Brackets ( ) [ ] { } .

This is very much the same as long sentences but has a different view on a few things. Commas give a semi-stop through the reading, but don’t fully complete the sentence. Try to feel around where it’s natural to put it. They may also be used to connect two fragment sentences, completing them both.

For the more advanced user, I will clear up the confusion of the semi-colon which I have only recently found out of myself. The condition for a semi-colon to be used, is two complete sentences. When you find that you want the two sentences together without a full stop, but don’t think a conjunction word is necessary, you may give them the semi-colon. Both sides of the semi-colon must be two complete sentences, either way you put it, but it must never be a conjunction right after the colon. I don’t know if it’s a really important detail, but I read that the two sentences should also have relevance to one another, either by relation or contrast. The semi-colon is a replacement for conjunctions in cases where you have two complete sentences.

Semi-colons may also be used to list things which include further descriptions. I’ll give an example to explain this more easily. “Today I ate a whole bunch of cakes. I had a fruit cream cake, which was delicious; a very tall cake, which looked like a wedding-cake; a napoleon cake, which I didn’t really like, and three slices of chocolate cake.”

The period, will end a sentence. It doesn’t have much more use than that, except for ellipsis and abbreviations. “etc. (et cetera), aka. (also known as)”

“The ellipsis… Ahh… So boring…” also known as the triple dot. It is used to drag out the word or the sentence, creating the stretch-out feeling. Something boring will often feel like a stretch-out, so ellipsis may be used in speech of a bored or lazy person. You may also use it for a ‘half-question’: “Is he…?” When used in articles or on web pages, they often signify that there is more. An article referring to another text shows that only a fragment of the text is taken out, while web pages may also show that there is more on the next page.

Dash – Hyphen
These are very similar, but have different usage. Bear in mind that this isn’t something anyone cares much about, but I’ll explain for the interested. The dash is longer than the hyphen and is used for connections or ranges. In my ‘section titles’ the computer corrects a dash for me. June–July is ranging between June and July, meaning all the days in between. The dash shows the connection or the range. The hyphen is to connect or separate words or syllables and it’s shorter. American-football can be put together, instead of saying American football, to show it a different way. I can’t say for sure in other language, but this doesn’t count for English: In Norwegian, the general rule is that “one thing” should be one word or connected with hyphen. As American-football is one thing, or one sport, it would be natural for me to connect the two words, while English accept it split.
I can also use the hyphen to show syllables or spelling: “syll-a-bles” or “s-y-l-l-a-b-l-e-s”.

“Speech” symbols
There are a few ways to show speech in a text. One way, is to simple have each line on each paragraph, without any symbols at all. I, personally, prefer the “double quotation mark”. It is also possible to use the ‘single quotation mark’, which looks very much like apostrophe. They should be different, but in most fonts on computers, they are similar. I like to use double quotation mark for speech, and single for special names or to signify irony in a text or speech, while others do the opposite
. Instead of the quotation mark for speech, a lot of languages, like Spanish, French, Russian, Greek, Arabic and Norwegian use «Guillemet» for speech. English does not use these however.

This is used through the other words I’ve explained and is for words like: You’re, I’ve, I’m, Let’s, Bob’s, Jibs’ etc.

Brackets ( ) [ ] { }
The parenthesis (parentheses in plural) is also a common word for this. This is to add extra information to a text, or provide options: “He’s a great guy (I like him a lot), but sometimes he’s not so great.” The sentence should be possible to read without the info in the bracket, but gives something extra. You can also talk about the bug(s), which can be both singular and plural.

The square bracket, also simply known as brackets in the US, adds in information in a slightly different way. If an excerpt of a text is written about, the square bracket will fill in the reader. The original text may be: “I appreciate it very much.” The writer referring to this text, should add information for the reader to know what “it” is. “I appreciate it [the comment] very much.”

The curly bracket, known as bracers in US or squiggly brackets in UK, can show a series of options. “Select your bracket {round bracket, square bracket, squiggly bracket} and insert here.”

In mathematics, the round bracket will give a different order of operations. (2+3)x4=20 while 2+3x4=14. The square and squiggly bracket is mostly used for sets and ranges. A set of numbers can be [1,4,6,14] meaning just those four numbers. [1-10] will show every number between 1 and 10, including those two. {1-10} shows every number between 1 and 10, but exclude 1 and 10 from the range. It may go very close up to 10, but never touch. The angled bracket can be used in physics a lot, but more commonly as ‘greater than’ (>) or ‘smaller than’ (<) signs, aka. inequality sign.








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