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The Chesterton Punctuation Guide with examples from G.K. Chesterton commas semi-colons colons. compiled by Mr . Rose Archbishop Moeller High School. The comma (,). Don’t take commas for granted! They’re like yellow traffic lights. Comas have to do with dividing sentences, giving meaning.

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The chesterton punctuation guide with examples from g k chesterton commas semi colons colons

The ChestertonPunctuation Guidewith examples from G.K. Chestertoncommassemi-colonscolons

compiled by Mr. Rose

Archbishop Moeller High School

The comma
The comma (,)

  • Don’t take commas for granted!

  • They’re like yellow traffic lights.

  • Comas have to do with dividing sentences, giving meaning.

  • Meaning and clarity is important.

Consider these two pairs of sentences:

Cora claimed Frank planned the murder.

Cora, claimed Frank, planned the murder.

Augie quit saying he was looking for another job.

Augie quit, saying he was looking for another job.

Mr. Rose

The serial comma
The serial comma (,)

1. Use commas between all items in a series.


My favorite DiCaprio movies are Inception, Shutter Island, and The Departed.

Mr. Rose

The adjective comma
The adjective comma (,)

1 -a. Use commas in a list of adjectives where and would be appropriate – where the modifying words are all modifying the same thing to the same degree.

Use a comma:

It was a dark, stormy night. EQUALS The night was dark and stormy.

He was a tall, bearded man. EQUALS The man was tall and bearded.

Do NOT use a comma:

Watson dislikes smelly horse manure.

Australian red grapes are tastier than French red grapes.

Mr. Rose

The joining comma
The joining comma (,)

2. Use a comma when two complete sentences are joined together using such conjunctions, as and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet.


I’ve read many books about the Civil War, yet I still can’t understand why men would go to war with other men from the same country.

Mr. Rose

The joining comma1
The joining comma (,)

2. (cont.) Errors result in run-ons:

  • Splice: Omitting the conjunction and keeping the comma

  • Run-on: Omitting the comma


It was the Queen’s birthday yesterday, she got a lot of presents.

B. Jim woke up in an unfamiliar bed and he felt lousy.

Mr. Rose

The intro comma
The intro comma (,)

3. Use a comma after an introductory word or word group (dependent clause).


If I were a rich man, I would donate a lot of my money to the poor.

Mr. Rose

The appositive comma
The appositive comma (,)

4. Use commas around appositives. An appositive comes directly before or after a noun and renames it.


Dr. Bull, a professor of history, teaches a class called the Psychology of War.

Mr. Wells, a very bright gentleman, has failed his driving exam twice.

Mr. Rose

The bracketing comma
The bracketing comma (,)

5. Use commas to mark both ends of a “weak interruption,” an aside or transition that interrupts the flow of a sentence and does not affect its meaning.


Nicholas Nickleby, published in 1839, uses a great many commas.

I am, of course, getting steadily better at my golf game.

Mr. Rose

The nonrestrictive comma
The nonrestrictive comma (,)

6. Use a comma to set off nonrestrictive elements. A nonrestrictive element is a word group that describes a noun or pronoun whose meaning has already been clearly defined or limited. The nonrestrictive element often begins with who, which, or that.


The suspect in the lineup, who owns a red car, committed the crime.


The nonrestrictive phrase above does not change the meaning of the word it modifies -- indifference.

Mr. Rose

The restrictive element
The restrictive element

6. (Cont.) Note: A restrictive element defines or limits the meaning of the word it modifies or limits the meaning of the sentence. Because it contains essential information, a restrictive element is not set off with commas.


The suspect in the lineup who has red hair committed the crime.

Note: in the example above, the “restrictive element” tells us which suspect.

Mr. Rose

The nonrestrictive comma1
The nonrestrictive comma (,)

6. (cont.) Note that the comma in the following pair of sentences changes the meaning.


The people in the line who managed to get tickets were ecstatic.


The people in the line, who managed to get tickets, were ecstatic.

Mr. Rose

The quotations comma
The quotations comma (,)

8. Use a comma to set off direct quotations.


“I love to study grammar," is a thing that few students say. “

Mr. Rose

The direct address comma
The direct address comma (,)

9. Use commas to set off nouns of direct address.


Dr. Bull, would you do me a small favor?

Note: Above, “Dr. Bull” is the noun of direct address. He is the one being spoken to.

Let’s eat, Grandpa!

Mr. Rose

The semicolon
The semicolon (;)

1. Use a semicolon between closely related independent clauses not joined with a conjunction.


The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice.

Mr. Rose

The semicolon1
The semicolon (;)

2. Use a semicolon between independent clauses linked with transitional expressions such as so, accordingly, however, moreover, meanwhile, nevertheless, etc.


The Professor made no answer;soI repeated my question.

Mr. Rose

The semicolon2
The semicolon (;)

3. Use semicolons to separate items in a list that itself contains commas.


I have been to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay in the Midwest; Jacksonville, Charlotte, and Miami in the South; and San Francisco, Oakland, and Seattle in the West.

Mr. Rose

The colon
The colon (:)

1. Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list.


I can already think of three things I’d rather be doing: sunning myself at the seaside, skiing on snowy slopes, and sightseeing in some scenic spot.

Mr. Rose

The colon1
The colon (:)

2. Use a colon between independent clauses if the second summarizes or explains the first. (If the summary or explanation is an independent clause, capitalize the first letter after the colon.)


The verdict is this: He is guilty of crimes against humanity.

Mr. Rose