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A Desktop Publisher's Guide to Punctuation & Special Characters

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 4/16/2012

Punctuation can be a bit tricky at times, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored. Punctuation serves the purpose of helping us string ideas together into sentences, allowing us to communicate with others. Learn rules of punctuation and why they're important with these tips and tricks.

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    The art of the written language The rules of the written English language are tricky at best, but that doesn't mean you should just give up. Punctuation has come to be ignored in recent times, as e-mail and texting have made it seem almost superfluous. But, where would we be without all the commas, apostrophes, dashes and hyphens, colons and even that pesky little semicolon? Learn how to correctly use punctuation to your advantage to help craft better sentences, which can lead to clearer communication – something we should all strive for.

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    The Importance of Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation

    You probably know about the importance of spelling and grammar, as the ability to communicate clearly hinges on these two factors. However, you may not have known how important punctuation really is. Learn why punctuation can help convey thoughts properly and can make or break whatever you're writing.

    The Important Elements of Punctuation

    Punctuation does a lot more than simply end a sentence. By employing dashes, apostrophes, brackets, colons, exclamation points, periods and several other punctuation marks, you can create works of literary art, where you can easily string together thoughts and ideas. Learn all about the functions of punctuation and how they can help you to communicate well with your readers.

    When to Use an Apostrophe

    It's funny to think how often an apostrophe is actually misused, but can you honestly say that you know when you are (or aren't) supposed to use one? Do you know the difference between its and it's? If you don't, don't worry! Now you can learn the different uses for the apostrophe, such as its contractive forms, its pluralization uses and its possessive forms.

    How to Properly Use Semicolons

    It's rare to see a punctuation mark that is avoided more so than the semicolon. Most of us have bad memories of grade school English classrooms where teachers had a hard time explaining sentence structure to a classroom of seemingly uninterested kids. However, the semicolon deserves our respect, as it has an abundance of uses.

    Talking Typography: How to Properly Use Colons

    Most of us know that colons introduce lists and denote the hour and minutes of 12-hour (AM/PM) time. However, these little dots have a lot more to offer. Learn how this commonly used punctuation mark can help your publications.

    Using Hyphens Correctly Writing depends on punctuation 

    Another punctuation mark that is frequently misused is the hyphen. However, there's a great chance that you're going to come across the need to use a hyphen if you write at all, so you can take the time to look over these five simple-to-remember rules for correctly using the hyphen.

    En Dash and Em Dash: When and How to Use them Properly

    There's also a good chance that you've never heard of the en dash and the em dash, but you've probably seen them. These two elongated hyphens each have their own special place in the art of crafting paragraph perfection, and learning how to use them properly can make you look like a desktop publishing pro.

    When Is It Okay to Use an Ampersand?

    You probably recognize an ampersand when you see it; it's the & sign, which is generally used to replace "and" in certain situations. However, there are important rules to follow if you're going to use the ampersand. Learn when it's okay to use one, and how you may already be using it incorrectly.

    Properly Using Bullets and Bulleted Lists

    Everyone has seen a bullet and a bulleted list in their life. These small black circles are often used to denote different items in a list. Learn the proper way to use a bullet to organize information, which might surprise you as you could be using them the wrong way.

    Using Correct Punctuation in Your Bulleted Lists

    Bulleted lists are a fantastic way to organize information but how do you properly place punctuation within them? There are important syntax guidelines to follow when creating any kind of list, and the bulleted list is no exception. Learn what place punctuation has in a bulleted list by following these simple rules.

    What Is Hanging Punctuation?

    Hanging punctuation is a style of formatting that preserves the overall look of text blocks and other forms of stylistic text. By placing punctuation marks in the margins of the document, you can create a look that is more pleasing to the eye. Check out these fantastic examples of hanging punctuation and learn why some publishers choose to use this style.

    Examples of Initial Caps

    Initial caps generally come in three different styles, raised caps, dropped caps and adjacent caps – all of which are thought to give an appealing "story book" feel to your text. You're probably familiar with this concept from childhood books that employ initial caps and ornamental fonts to create a very familiar and fun feel. Learn how you can use initial caps to give your project a fantasy feel.

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