How to Write Punctuation That Makes Your Story Pop!

When it comes to writing a story, the words are only part of what makes it flow. There are many other key factors that play a role in writing fantastic sentences. One of those key factors is the punctuation that you use. I’ve already discussed commas, so now we’re going to focus on ending punctuation.

Ending punctuation all depends on what it is you’re trying to say. Are you simply stating something, asking a question, or is something exciting happening? And let’s not forget punctuation in dialogue. Before we begin, let me start off by saying that a period is not required after other ending punctuation. I don’t know why, but I’m noticing a trend where people will use “!” followed by “.” or “?” followed by “.” The ending punctuation is just that – the ending punctuation. There is no period needed to show the sentence ended.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to discussing the three most common ending punctuations and how to punctuate dialogue.

The Period

Most sentences end with a period. Every sentence I’ve written in this blog so far ends with a period. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the only ending punctuation. A period is used when stating facts or complete thoughts. Below are some examples:

  • I had cake today.
  • I have work tomorrow.
  • I need to go to the store.
  • It’s going to be sunny tomorrow.

When used as “…”, it is called an ellipsis and has a completely different meaning from the regular period. An ellipsis indicates a word omission or an incomplete thought. For example:

  • I think…
  • I would love to call her a…
  • Maybe I’ll just…

These are very common in dialogue, which I’ll discuss in further detail later.

The Exclamation Point

Exclamation points on their own can end sentences. However, the sentences that they end are considered to show excitement or require a louder voice. They are more than just facts. They express an emotion and set a mood. Here’s some examples:

  • I love cake! Please, give me cake!
  • I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow!
  • Ugh, I don’t want to go to the store!
  • I wish it was snowing, not sunny!

The way these should be said when read aloud is far different from the way the above sentences are read. It’s difficult to explain in words, but to put it simply – the period is a robot reading, and the exclamation point is an excited dog with too much energy. Even that doesn’t describe it too well, but I’ll have a chance to give some audio examples on my Instagram.

With the exclamation point, you can show fear, anger, frustration, and so much more. Imagine a child runs into a busy street after a ball. A parent is not just going to say, “Oh, look out.” No, they are going to be screaming at the top of their lungs, “Look out!” That is what the exclamation point is for.

The Question Mark

As is implied in the name, the question mark is for questions. Just like exclamation points, they end sentences on their own. There is no period needed after a question mark. There are a few different ways you can use commas creatively:

  • We need chips, right?
  • Do you have shoes on?

As you can see from the above examples, one is a simple question – “Do you have shoes on?” The other is a statement with a question attached. If you read my post on clauses, you’ll notice this is an independent clause with a dependent clause attached by a comma. You must use the comma.

Each of these sentences are stated in a different way. Again, I’ll give verbal examples of this on my Instagram.

Dialogue

When it comes to dialogue, you have to think about how you’re ending your dialogue. For example:

  • “We need cake,” he said.
  • “Don’t leave me!” she cried.
  • “Are you okay?” she asked.
  • “I need help.” He sighed, rubbing his forehead.

If you’re going to add “he said” or “she said” to the end of a sentence that would normally end with a period, you drop the period and add a comma instead. Sentences with exclamation points or question marks keep them even with the ending “she cried” or “she asked”. You can also completely omit the ending parts and just have the dialogue.

When it comes to choosing the right punctuation to end your sentences, it’s important to read your work out loud. Don’t forget to check out my Instagram Story to see just how you would read certain sentences out loud. That will help you decide what you need to end your sentence.

What Are Clauses? As Explained by the Resident Grammar Police

If you clicked on this post expecting to see something about Santa and the Mrs., you’re in the wrong place. If you clicked on this post expecting to see something about nail art or cat claws, we should probably talk about spelling. Clauses have nothing to do with Santa or nails, but they have everything to do with making your sentences amazing.

There are two types of clauses: independent and dependent. Independent clauses are more commonly known as sentences. Dependent clauses are considered sentence fragments. However, both play a key role in creating fantastic sentences. We’ll discuss both in more detail.

Independent Clauses

An independent clause includes a subject, verb, and a complete thought. These are sentences that don’t include commas and conjunctions. For example: “I had pizza today.” This is an independent clause. Independent clauses can be joined together using coordinating conjunctions and independent marker words.

Independent marker words connect two independent clauses with a semicolon. These independent marker words include: however, also, furthermore, and therefore. As an example: “I had pizza today; however, it was cold when I got it.” When it comes to fiction writing, joining independent clauses this way is rare. The most common method is using coordinating conjunctions. You can see examples of using coordinating conjunctions to connect independent clauses in my post about conjunctions. (Make sure you’re using those commas too!)

Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses are tricky, especially when it comes to fiction writing. In fact, they can sometimes be useful in certain settings in your story. However, if you don’t know what they are and how to identify them, you might be using them wrong. In their most basic sense, dependent clauses are sentence fragments. They express some of what a sentence is trying to say but not all of it.

Like independent clauses, they often include a subject and a verb, but the thought involved with that subject and verb is left hanging. For example: “When I finish cleaning the cat box.” This dependent clause leaves the reader wondering what is going to happen when I finish. To fix this sentence, I would have to add a comma and another clause: “When I finish cleaning the cat box, I will wash my hands.”

Now, I mentioned earlier that dependent clauses can be used on their own in your story. Below is an example:

He watched as she scooped the clumped masses of dirt into a bag. “Are you going to make dinner?”

She rolled her eyes with a sigh. “When I finish cleaning the cat box.”

In the case of this bit of dialogue, “When I finish cleaning the cat box, I will make dinner” would have sounded awkward and redundant. We already know he’s wondering when dinner will be cooked. Judging from her eye roll and sigh, I almost feel like she might be considering cooking the contents of the cat box for his dinner.

Clauses play an important role in writing, and it’s important to be able to use independent and dependent clauses correctly. And please, remember to use your commas and your conjunctions!

Conjunction Junction: The Function of Conjunctions

It makes me sad when I think back on my education and my childhood and consider that today’s students will never know the joys of learning about conjunctions with a little train conductor running a conjunction junction. I gave my students a chance to experience Schoolhouse Rocks when we were learning about the preamble of the United States Constitution (which I can still pull up off the top of my head, thanks to that song). I had the same feeling of nostalgia when we started reviewing conjunctions.

Conjunctions can serve three main purposes: coordinating, correlative, and subordinating. Coordinating conjunctions join words, phrases, and clauses (sentences) that share grammatical structure and rank. Correlative conjunctions work together to connect words, phrases, and clauses. Our final type of conjunction is subordinating conjunctions. These conjunctions connect a dependent clause with an independent clause.

Although all three serve their own purpose, most people will use correlative and subordinating without even realizing it. I will briefly touch on those two, but the majority of my time will be spent on the proper use of coordinating conjunctions. It is also important to note that conjunctions require a comma when joining two independent clauses. (I’m watching your commas, TrinityUnderdog!)

Coordinating Conjunctions

There are three main coordinating conjunctions that we use in most of our writing. These are “and”, “or”, and “but”. You see them in use everyday:

  • I love beans, and I love rice. This is great for listing things or joining two independent clauses that are in agreement.
  • Should I get the hamburger, or should I get tacos? This lists options that are available to choose from.
  • I love this color, but I don’t love this dress. You use this for contrast. One of the words, phrases, or clauses is positive, and the other is negative.

Some less common ones are “for”, “so”, “nor”, and “yet”. Some example sentences for these four include:

  • I hadn’t eaten, so I quickly cooked up some eggs. We use this for giving a reason behind an action or a consequence for an action.
  • She was large, for she enjoyed desserts quite frequently. This is what I call the “fancy version” of because. It serves the same purpose and explains the why behind the first clause.
  • I didn’t want that shirt, nor did I want the pants. There are two negative clauses that connect. You could also consider this the negative version of “and”.
  • I knew I needed to leave, yet I kept stopping to look at things. This is another way of showing contrast. It’s similar to “but”.

Do you notice the use of commas, TrinityUnderdog? (Her comma use – or lack of – is exhausting for my brain…)

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions that work together for the words, phrases, and clauses. There are many of these, but once you know what to look for, they’re easy to spot. Some examples are in the image below. Correlative conjunctions are used to write sentences like these:

  • I will either get the fish or the chicken.
  • I will have both a water and a soda.
  • I study so much that I will definitely pass.
  • I would rather stay home than go to the store.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions are the main type of conjunction that connects a dependent clause to an independent clauses. These types of conjunctions usually don’t require commas, because you are not joining two independent clauses together with a conjunction. Please, do not use commas with this type of conjunction. I’m looking at you, TrinityUnderdog.

  • I like cake and candy.
  • You can have soup or salad.
  • I want this dress but not in that color.

When it comes to using conjunctions, you don’t need to identify them by name. However, it’s important to know at least a little bit about them. After all, subordinating conjunctions look similar to coordinating conjunctions, but the biggest difference is comma usage.

Are you having trouble using conjunctions? Drop a comment below, and I’ll help you out.

Commas: LEARN TO USE THEM, TRINITYUNDERDOG

TrinityUnderdog has likely mentioned this before. I am a bit of a grammar Nazi. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve are commas. Use them. Correctly. Without fail. Sentences are different when commas are used. There’s a big difference between “I like cooking my family and my pets” and “I like cooking, my family, and my pets.”

If you’re going for the psychopath route, then I highly recommend using as few commas as possible. However, if you’d like to actually sound like a sane member of society, please learn to use commas and use them. They are just like the blinkers on your car. They serve a purpose, and they should be used for that purpose. Of course, just like the blinkers on your car, the proper use of commas are rarely seen in today’s world.

So, allow me to educate you, just as I educate the 5th graders in my classroom. Here are four key times to use commas:

  • Making a list. I like burgers, sushi, and pizza.
  • Connecting sentences with a conjunction. I like burgers, but I don’t like spicy chicken sandwiches.
  • Dialogue. “I love rain showers,” she whispered.
  • After introductory elements. When I was young, I had a hamster.

As with many things in the English language, the best rule of thumb is to read it out loud to yourself. With commas, you listen for the natural pauses. Commas give a reader a chance to “breathe”. Without these visual breaths, your writing will become awkward to read – especially for grammar Nazis like myself.

If you found this writing tip helpful, subscribe to the blog to get more grammar help. You can also check me out at Madam Tatas Plays or on Instagram.

Most Common Grammar Mistakes I See on Episode

Most Common Grammar Mistakes I See on Episode

Let me start by saying this post is not sponsored by Grammarly in any way…I just happen to love their service and wanted to share some of the most common grammar mistakes I see on Episode to help out my fellow writers.

You may not know this, but a lot of Episodes are written by people whose first language isn’t English. If you think about it, that’s pretty cool because you get to read from the viewpoint of someone whose life is probably different from your own in a lot of ways. Sadly, because there are often so many grammar errors these stories (which are honestly really good) don’t get a lot of attention.

If you’re writing for Episode and speak (or rather write) English as a second language I want to help you. It’s not that I’m perfect, but I have a few tips and tricks that can help you out. Here are some of the most common grammar mistakes I see on Episode.

Subject/Verb Agreement

The English language is difficult. I mean we have so many rules about verb tenses and we don’t always follow them. I mean you can add -ed to make your word past tense right? Wrong. There are exceptions. for words like “run” the past tense changes to “ran”, not “runned”. If you’re writing and you’re confused about the correct conjugation of a word you can always use the spelling and grammar check in a document before uploading to Episode. There are also services like Grammerly that can help you out.

Capitalization

I’m not 100% sure that this counts as grammar, but it is something I see a lot. In the English language you have to capitalize the first letter of a sentence, first names, the letter “i” when it stands alone, names of people/places, etc. There are over 15 capitalization rules actually and I can’t cover them all, but I did find a pretty comprehensive list here. While you can choose to capitalize differently for stylistic effect (when someone is yelling), you want to make sure this is an intentional choice, not something that will distract readers.

Plural Nouns

I’ve noticed a few authors make mistakes in this area as well. This is something that can get complicated as well. For example the word “hair” is considered singular even though it refers to thousands of hairs. Weird. Usually you add an “s” to make a noun plural, but sometimes you need an “es”. Also, there are irregular plurals like for the word foot. You don’t say foots you say “feet”. Grammarly has a great article about this in their blog if you have any doubts.

Contractions

When you speak in English you usually use more contractions than if you are writing a college essay. Using contractions makes your writing sound less formal. I see a lot of “Let us go out” or “It is my favorite” in dialogue between two characters who are just “hanging out”. It’s more common to say “Let’s” or “It’s”. Also I notice that at times people forget to put the apostrophe in their writing which gets confusing. Especially with words like “your” and “you’re”, their and “they’re” and “its” and “it’s”. Familiarize yourself with contractions and when you should use them. It’s always okay to use the longer version such as “You are too kind” rather than “You’re too kind” if you want your character to sound more formal. This guide can help you out in knowing what contractions are in the English language and when to use or not use contractions.

Adding “the” in Unusual Places

The word “the” is used differently in other languages. As a result, you may hear non natives speakers using “the” in places you may not expect. It’s actually something that is often used in writing to show someone’s first language isn’t English as is the case with Starfire from Teen Titans. Purdue University is another great resource for helping with grammatical errors and you can find their guide on using articles like “the” here.

There are so many other errors I see on Episode. It’s fine. We aren’t all the same, but if you have a story to tell and you don’t want others to be distracted by your use of language you have to edit. It’s not anyone’s favorite thing in the world. My sister is constantly attacking my writing for overuse or underuse of commas, but I’m grateful to her for helping me out. If you’re really lost and don’t feel like doing the editing on your own you can always message me on Instagram and I’ll be happy to help. I won’t charge, but I may ask you to support me by reading my story in exchange. Happy writing!