Essay Writing Mechanics

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Use single quotation marks for definitions or translations that appear without intervening punctuation (e.g., ‘thus’). In Shakespeare’s , Antony begins his famous speech: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; / I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Verse quotations of more than three lines should be separated from the text by triple-spacing, introduced in most cases by a colon, indented [0.5 inches] from the left margin (…), and typed with double-spacing (…) but without quotation marks unless they appear in the original.

For the use of quotation marks with titles, see §13; and, for use of single and double quotation marks in quoted material, see §14f. Semicolons are used to separate items in a series when some of the items require internal commas. The spatial arrangement of the of the original (including indentation and spacing within and between lines) should be reproduced as accurately as possible. Still spending, never spent; I meane Thy faire eyes, sweet that Jaques is given the speech that many think contains a glimpse of Shakespeare’s conception of drama: All the world’s a stage And all the men and woman merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. Prose quotations of not more than four lines in the typescript, unless special emphasis is required, should always be incorporated, within quotation marks, as part of the text.

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Writers must guard against adopting different styles in parallel situations.

They are used between independent clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction, and they may be used before the coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence if one of the independent clauses requires a number of internal commas. Dates and page numbers are rarely spelled out: “12 April” or “April 12” and “page 45” are generally preferred to “the twelfth of April” and “the forty-fifth page.” Because numbers beginning sentences (including dates) are, by convention, spelled out, avoid beginning a sentence with a number. Percentage and amounts of money are treated as other numbers: if the numbers involved cannot be spelled out in one or two words, they may be written as numerals with the appropriate symbols (one percent, forty-five percent, one hundred percent, five dollars, thirty-five dollars, two thousand dollars, sixty-eight cents; but 2½%, 150%, $2.65, $303, ₤127. As in other aspects of writing, be consistent in expressing dates: either “22 July 1981” or “July 22, 1981,” but not both (if the latter, be sure to put a comma both before and after the year unless another punctuation mark is required); either “August 1981” or “August, 1981,” but not both. Crashaw begins his poem “The Weeper” with several metaphors describing the eyes of St. Jacques then proceeds to enumerate and analyze these ages. For Dickens it was both “the best of times” and “the worst of times.” “He was obeyed,” writes Conrad of the Company manager in , “yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect.” Longer quotations (more than four lines in the typescript) are usually introduced by a colon or comma (see §14f), set off from the text by triple-spacing, indented [0.5 inches] from the left margin, and typed with double-spacing (…) but without quotation marks.

For the use of semicolons in documentation and bibliography, see §§ 31e, 32k, 36, 37, and 42k. Slashes (virgules) are used to separate lines of poetry (see §14b) and elements of dates (see §11c), to enclose phonemic transcription, and occasionally to separate alternative words (and/or). Square brackets [] are used for an unavoidable parenthesis within a parenthesis, to enclose interpolations in a quotation (see §14e) or in incomplete data (see sample notes 58 and 64 in §§ 32r and 32t), and to enclose phonetic transcription. In general, numbers that cannot be spelled out in one or two words may be written as numerals (one, thirty-six, ninety-nine, one hundred, two thousand, three million; but 2½, 101, 137, and 1,275). In business, scientific, and technical writing involving their frequent use, all percentages and amounts of money may be written as numerals with the appropriate symbols. Centuries are written out in lowercase letters (the twentieth century). Mary Magdalene, withholding until the end of the first stanza the subject of his work: Haile, Sister Springs, Parents of Silver-footed rills! If a single paragraph, or part of one, is quoted, do not indent the first line more than the body of the quotation; if two or more paragraphs are quoted consecutively (as in the following example), indent the first line of each an additional [0.2 inches].

The primary purpose of punctuation is to ensure the clarity and readability of your writing.

The remarks below stress the conventions that pertain especially to research papers.

In words of more than one syllable ending in a sibilant, only the apostrophe is added (Hopkins’ poems, Cervantes’ (Camus’s novels). Colons are used to indicate that what follows will be an example, explanation, or elaboration of what has just been said. If the context requires a comma (as it does here), the comma follows a closing parenthesis, but a comma never precedes an opening parenthesis. Carter’s sweep of the South—Virginia was the only Southern state to vote Republican—helped give him the election.

They are commonly used to introduce quotations (see §§ 14b, 14c, and 14f). Commas are usually required between items in a series (blood, sweat, and tears), between coordinate adjectives (an absorbing, frightening account), before coordinating conjunctions joining independent clauses, around parenthetical elements, and after fairly long phrases or clauses preceding the main clause of a sentence. See §§ 31, 33, 35, and 41 for the usage of the comma in documentation and bibliography; see §14f for commas with quotation marks. Many twentieth-century American writers—Faulkner, Capote, Styron, Williams, to name only a few—come from the South. Exclamation marks should be used sparingly in scholarly writing. Hyphens are used to form some types of compound words, particularly compound adjectives that precede the word(s) they modify (a mind-boggling experience, a well-established policy, a first-rate study). In quoting, reproduce all accents exactly as they appear in the original.


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