Series index: English Punctuation Overview.
Word-level punctuation marks clarify the meaning of words themselves. You’d think they’d be simpler than sentence-level punctuation, but even these small details cause controversy and confusion.
Hyphens connect words to avoid confusion, but since their usage varies so much, they can create more confusion than they prevent. Luckily, a number of sites have some guidelines:
- The King's English - includes a few basic rules and some example errors. I especially like the first rule: "Hyphens are regrettable necessities, and to be done without when they reasonably may." Note: keep in mind that this book is from 1908.
- Economist.com Style Guide - ten rules and a list of single-word compounds.
- Word-Level Punctuation - hyphens in compound words, link modifiers, prefixes, numbers and fractions.
- The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation - hyphens in compound words and prefixes.
- SparkNotes: Ultimate Style - more basic rules, including use with nationalities, numbers, and letters.
- The Elements of Style - Elementary Rules of Usage - this last rule explains where to divide words that are cut off at the end of a line.
Despite being one of the most simple punctuation marks, apostrophes are often misused (like the infamous Greengrocer’s Apostrophes). Do your part: know your apostrophe rules and support The Apostrophe Protection Society!
- OWL: The Apostrophe - covers all the essential rules.
- The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation - basic rules and a couple minor details.
- Contractions - includes notes on distinguishing contractions from clipped forms and abbreviations.
- Apostrophes with Possessives of More than One Owner - a short note.
Note: single quotation marks look just like apostrophes, but they shouldn’t be called apostrophes. More on single quotation marks later.
The slash isn’t used nearly as often as other punctuation marks, but it can certainly come in handy.
- Dictionary.com FAQ: Slash - a short list of its uses.
- The Slash - another look at its common uses, including examples.
- Armchair Punctuator: Virgule - yet another guide with examples.