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.
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.