A Short Quiz on Using Colons, Commas, and Quotation Marks

There are three punctuation marks that make many writers crazy: commas, colons, and quotation marks, and this post is intended to help a little with each.

Please remember that it’s American grammar rules I’m writing about, not necessarily any other form of English; each version has its own rules, and many times they’re different from the American ones.

Which of the following in each group is correct? Note: There may be more than one right answer. And if you do indeed guess the correct answers, do you know why they’re correct? If not, click on the links provided under the answers.

Group A — Quotation Marks

Don thinks Amy is a ‘geek.’

Don thinks Amy is a “geek”.

Don thinks Amy is a “geek.”

Group B — Commas with Titles & Occupations

Founder and CEO, Mike Miller, will be with us tomorrow.

Founder and CEO Mike Miller will be with us tomorrow.

Our Founder and CEO Mike Miller will be with us tomorrow.

Our Founder and CEO, Mike Miller, will be with us tomorrow.

 

Group C — Colons with Lists

The group includes students, professors, and visitors.

The group includes: students, professors, and visitors.

The group includes; students, professors, and visitors.

The group includes, students, professors, and visitors.

*****

Answers and links to why:

Group A: Don thinks Amy is a “geek.”

Periods and commas always go inside / in front of / before final quotation marks in the American system, even if we’re only quoting the last word(s) of the sentence. Do not use single quotation marks by themselves; only use them inside doubles.

Learn more here.

 

Group B:

  • Founder and CEO Mike Miller will be with us tomorrow.

When a title comes before a name, do NOT follow it with a comma, no matter how many words in the title. The title and name are a single unit and cannot be split.

  • Our Founder and CEO, Mike Miller, will be with us tomorrow.

When the person’s occupation comes in front of the name, always follow both the occupation and the person’s name with a comma.

Learn why here.

 

Group C: The group includes students, professors, and visitors.

When using a colon to introduce a list within a sentence, never put the colon after any word that could not end the sentence (such as includes).

Learn more here.

There are more rules to learn about each, but if you can master just these few, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Is there anything in the world of American grammar you’d like me to write about? How can I help you look and sound as smart as you are?