Miscellaneous Punctuation


Besides your typical periods, commas, and quotation marks, let’s not forget about slashes, parentheses, colons, brackets, and the rest of the forgotten. Yes, we may use periods and commas more than colons and parentheses, but how would we be able to begin our explanations (colons) or clarify our points and cite (parentheses) without these other punctuation marks?


Let’s start with something you should all be familiar with by now: parentheses. All over your research papers and analytical essays are parentheses, used to cite authors of articles and books in your paper. Parentheses aren’t always for in-text citations, but can also be used to give secondary information to clarify the words behind it. For example I can write:

He gave me a small loan.

But how much was that small loan? I can use parentheses to clarify how much I received:

He gave me a small loan ($1,000,000).

All you college students should know how to use parentheses to cite, but if you don’t then you’re in deep trouble. Usually, in the parentheses when citing should be the last name of the author, followed by the year of publication or page the quote was found on. Andrea Lunsford, the writer of the EasyWriter writes, “Parentheses are also used to enclose textual citations and numbers or letters in a list” (129). Also, never forget that the period is on the outside of the parentheses when ending a sentence.

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Next, we have brackets, the parentheses of parentheses. Brackets are used when you want to include information that is usually included in parentheses in material that is already in parentheses. For example, I can write:

He hit me with his car.

We can use brackets to clarify, a function of parentheses, who “he” is, if we write:

He [my neighbor] hit me. 

Another way brackets can be used is to point out quoted material that may sound or look odd, which tells the reader that the person being quoted made the mistake, and not the writer, when using the word sic in brackets. Wet Seal was selling a shirt that was written grammatically incorrect, that read:

If your [sic] single, so am I.

Here, [sic] was used to identify that it was Wet Seal that made the error, and not myself.

Here’s a list of reasons you would use a colon: introduce a list, explanation, quotation, or a series. There are a few rules when you using colons, and more often than not, people misuse colons. When using colons to list something, never use it between a verb and the objects being listed or between a preposition and the things being listed.

He described me as: nice, quiet, and funny.

This sentence is grammatically incorrect, because the colon is between a preposition (as) and the characteristics being described. In this sentence,

We went to the store to buy: eggs, milk, and bread.

the colon is between a verb (buy) and the groceries, so it is incorrect. A proper way of using colons would be:

I am looking for an employee who could do the following: stock shelves, take inventory, and interact with customers.

One way or another, you are going to find yourself using brackets or colons, so you should know how to use them properly before you get points deducted from your professor for stupid grammatical errors.



What is parallelism?

Parallelism is a rhetorical device used in writing for the purpose of creating balance or equality in the construction of a sentence. Parallel refers to something being identical or similar in key aspects, and is at the heart of what parallelism tries to achieve.

Parallelism used in ancient times

Parallelism has been used throughout history and is attributed to many famous sayings that are universally recognized. The phrase veni, vidi, vici is attributed to the Roman emperor Julius Caesar after winning his battle against Pharnaces II of Pontus.


Translated, veni, vidi, vici means “I saw, I came, I conquered” – a sentence that rests heavily upon it’s symmetric and balanced form. Parallelism is not limited to sentences that are grammatically the same throughout; sentences that are sound, meter, and meaning can be parallel as well. Such use of parallelism has been extensively used in politics.

Examples of Parallelism

Three examples are:

  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessing; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” (Churchill)

Here, Winston Churchill illuminates to the hypocrisies of both capitalism and socialism, highlighting how the successes of one economic system leads to downturn of another system. Ultimately, neither capitalism nor socialism is perfect.

  • “…and that government of the peopleby the peoplefor the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Abraham Lincoln uses parallelism effectively in his Gettysburg address to emphasizing that the federal government is a product birthed from democracy and is a right that cannot be taken away.

  • Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

In his inaugural address, Kennedy uses parallelism in order to inspire every American, and instill the importance of civic duty and public service, challenging them in some way to contribute towards the public good during the shadow of the Cold War.


Common mistakes associated with parallelism

Often, people fail to make sentences parallel due to verb tenses not making chronological sense. For instance:

1.) I was thinking of to run.

The verbs in the above sentence are mismatched and create a jarring effect in the sentence. This is often called “faulty parallelism.”

Coordinating conjunctions are especially useful in making parallel sentences. Conjunctions such as and, but, and or are commonly used:

1.) She likes to look but not to listen.

2.) We wondered who he was and what he was doing here.

Lists or series use parallel structure:

1.) The frustrated customer wanted to exchange the article, to obtain a refund, or to speak to the manager.

2.) There was no opportunity to do homework, to request an extension, or to explain my situation.

3.) The salesman expected that he would present his product at the meeting, that there would be time for him to show his slide presentation, and that prospective buyers would ask him questions.

Parallel structure is also commonly associated with comparisons:

1.) How much money you make is not as important as how you live your life.

2.) I like swimming better than running.

Parallelism is an important tool for writers allowing them to create phrases or paragraphs that create the right rhythm and balance to present ideas in a concise and smooth manner. In addition, it can be used as an effective means of proving a point or as a means of persuasion.

Overall, it can make your writing less clunky and laborious, and for a final example:

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” (Abraham Lincoln)



MODIFIER: Adjective, adverb, phrase, or clause that describes another word.

NOUN PHRASE MODIFIER:  The first type of modifier in the English language is the noun phrase modifier. A noun phrase modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes a noun or noun phrase.

ADJECTIVE PHRASE MODIFIERS:  The second type of modifier in the English language is the adjective phrase modifier. An adjective phrase modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes an adjective or adjective phrase

VERB PHRASE MODIFIERS:  The third type of modifier in the English language is the verb phrase modifier. A verb phrase modifier is a word or phrase that describes a verb or verb phrase.

ADVERB PHRASE MODIFIERS:  The fourth type of modifier in the English language is the adverb phrase modifier. An adverb phrase modifier is a word that describes an adverb or adverb phrase.

MISPLACED MODIFIER:  A phrase, clause or word placed too far away from the noun or pronoun it modifies. Examples:pj dog

  • The boy walked the dog in his pajamas.
    • This sounds like the dog was wearing pajamas!
  • Fix: The boy, in his pajamas, walked the dog. 
  • Only Einstein wrote two books.
  • Fix: Einstein only wrote two books.

DANGLING MODIFIERS:  A word or phrase that modifies a word that is not stated in the sentence. Example:

  •  After playing with her toys, the room was a mess.
    • We do not know who was playing with the toys!
  • Fix: After playing with her toys, the girl left the room a mess

slow childrenThis sign currently implies that children are moving slowly and crossing. Really, the message is for cars to proceed with caution, as children may be crossing. To fix this, the sign could read: “Go Slow, Children Crossing” or “Slow, Children Crossing.”