The New Student's Reference Work/Punctuation

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Punc′tua′tion may be defined as the art of so dividing sentences or clauses with certain marks, as to make the sense more complete.  Manutius, a Venetian printer of the 16th century, is generally regarded as the father of our present system of punctuation.  Its principal marks are the period (.) generally placed at the end of a sentence and at the end of abbreviated words; the comma (,) used to separate words or pairs of words and, sometimes, clauses; the semicolon (;) used to separate clauses or divisions of a sentence requiring a more marked separation than is indicated by the comma; the colon (:) used where the sentences require a more marked separation than is indicated by the semicolon; the dash (—) sometimes performing the offices of the comma, the semicolon or the colon, but generally used to indicate a break in the thought or a change in the structure of a sentence; the interrogation point (?) used to denote a question; the exclamation point (!) used to express surprise or any special emotion; the hyphen (-) used between the divisions of a compound-word and to divide any word at the end of a line; the apostrophe (’) used as a sign of the possessive case and to supply the place of any letter or letters omitted from a word; the parentheses or curves ( ) used to inclose any word or words essential to the meaning of the passage; the brackets [ ] used to include the words or remarks of the author within the writing of some other person; the quotation-marks, consisting of two inverted commas and two apostrophes (“ ”) used to inclose any word or words quoted from another person; the ellipsis ( * * * * * * ) or dots ( . . . . ), used to denote the omission of words from a quotation; the index (☞) used to point out any particular sentence or statement; the star or asterisk (*), the dagger (†), the double dagger (‡), the section (§), the parallel (‖), the paragraph (¶), which refer to notes at the bottom of the column or page or at the end of the article or chapter.  There are numerous rules for the use of these various points, but perhaps no two writers or printers would agree as to the proper point to be used in all cases.  Good judgment and taste and a certain amount of practice are essential to anyone who would punctuate in such a manner as to secure the fundamental object of punctuation — the expression of the sense.  To illustrate the aid that punctuation will sometimes render to an understanding of the sense of any composition, take the following example:

Every lady in the land
Has twenty nails on each hand
Five and twenty on hands and feet
This is true without deceit.

Now read the same properly punctuated:

Every lady in the land
Has twenty nails; on each hand
Five, and twenty on hands and feet;
This is true without deceit.

To show how punctuation may sometimes vary the sense of any speaker or writer, the following example will serve:  A member of the English house of commons called one of his fellow members a liar and was compelled publicly to apologize for the offense.  He did so by rising in his place and meekly saying:  “I said he was a liar, it is true; and I am sorry for it.”  The apology was deemed sufficient; but in the newspaper which published an account of the matter the next day, the apology was printed thus:  “I said he was a liar; it is true, and I am sorry for it.”  See Proof-Reading.